When it comes to dealing with the country’s ‘gravest internal threat’, the Maoists, the Union government’s strategy is based on four elements: security, development, public perception management and surrender and rehabilitation.
However, what often hampers the fight against the Red Army is the absence of consensus on these broad central guidelines between the Centre and the Maoist-affected states. This disconnect was evident once again last week when Satyapal Singh, the Mumbai Police commissioner, suggested that the Maoists need to be neutralised by putting collective responsibility on the villagers who help them.
In the latest issue of the Indian Police Journal, the 1980-batch Maharashtra cadre police officer suggested that the government must think of imposing curfew, slapping collective fines and punishing heads and elders in villages if they are found to be helping the Maoists.
He added that it was time to admit that the locals in the Maoist-affected areas are not with the police and that despite the administration doing development work, there has not been much change in the quality of their lives.
The commissioner wrote that the Maoists need to be restricted ‘both physically and psychologically from the general population’ and that every member of a village, above 12 years of age, must be registered with the district administration and be issued an identity card.
Mr Singh has spoken like a true blue security official, overlooking the real picture that villagers are often forced to help the Maoists — and even the security forces — out of fear.
He also seems to have forgotten that it is this high-handed attitude of successive governments and security forces that had pushed the people towards the Maoists. At a time when the central government is pushing the development agenda to wean away the people from the Maoists — a difficult and time-consuming process — suggestions like those given Mr Singh will only complicate matters and could badly backfire in the long run.