Just three days before the second phase of assembly polls were due in Bihar, a landmine explosion in Sheohar district killed four special auxiliary police personnel and a police inspector. The repeated attacks are a matter of grave security concern for the Indian state and display the audacity of the present breed of Naxalites. While it is clear now that they cannot be made to change their mind by reason, honour or threat, the question that arises is how to tackle them otherwise.
Blowing up school buildings, butchering police personnel through hidden warfare, gunning down coalmine officials are the instances of Naxalite violence haunting post-modern India. The simmering rural unrest, over the last few years, has vested itself through violence in states like West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. Most of the targets are selected to change people's opinion about the potency of government authority. The attacks are planned such that people see in them the justification of a cause and one that will lead to a just order by overthrowing a particular order.
In Bihar, a number of attacks on police pickets have been carried out by extremist organisations like the Indian People's Front, the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti (MKSS) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC). In parts of Central Bihar, their underground operations are on the rise. These organisations raise funds by means of extortion from contractors, subscriptions from corrupt officials and powerful landlords. Although it is difficult to ascertain their actual strength, the MCC is considered to be the most organised, possessing sophisticated weapons. A few years ago, the massacre of 11 people near the Dodadih Hills in Bihar by the MCC had almost led to a caste war. There have been other instances of such gruesome acts by the MCC which is active in districts like Patna, Jehanabad, Gaya, Nalanda and Navada. In areas around Jehanabad, the weaker sections are mobilised by the IPF and the MKSS on the basis of a common concern for equitable distribution of land and payment of minimum wages. After the Dalelchak Baghora ( Aurangabad ) massacre, the state government declared a ban on the activities of the MCC.
Over the years, the government of Andhra Pradesh has suffered heavy loss of public and private property because of the upsurge in Naxal activities. In the
last two decades, the People's War Group, dissatisfied with government policies, has lashed out violently committed bank robberies, murdered policemen, abducted businessmen and officials and attempted political assassinations.
The menace of Naxalism, however, continues to grow and there are several reasons for it. The Minimum Wages Act has not been properly implemented and often, rural labourers do not get the minimum wages fixed by the government. The lack of development programmes, the illegal occupation of uncultivated public land by landlords, lack of irrigation facilities for rural poor and the denial of political rights to them are some of the other reasons. The nexus between the landowners and the police and the constant tussle for political domination also contribute to a feeling of disquiet.
Given that unemployment, underdevelopment, poverty, the continuing feudal order and growing corruption among politicians and bureaucrats contribute to Naxal violence, the formation of special units like COBRA to fight Naxalism alone cannot yield prompt results. We need to bring about better coordination among intelligence and local police, modify our information-gathering exercise and involve a multi-dimensional mechanism including the support of the media to make people less sympathetic to the cause of the needy.
Sudhir Hindwan is a Chandigarh-based professor of political science. The views expressed by the author are personal.