Eyes wide shut
In this vacuum exists a parallel State run by Maoists, whose relationship with democratic India remains, at best, tenuous and, at worst, violently antagonistic.india Updated: Nov 19, 2007 23:57 IST
Out of sight, out of mind is the phrase that comes to most of us whenever confronted by any news pertaining to Naxal activity. If such an attitude is shared by the State, then there is a serious problem. On Sunday, one of our reporters described what it was like to venture into such an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ area. What he narrated was an eyewitness account of large swathes of terrain in Chhattisgarh, where State authorities have been missing for decades on end.
In this vacuum exists a parallel State run by Maoists, whose relationship with democratic India remains, at best, tenuous and, at worst, violently antagonistic. While urban India still lives in the belief that the ‘barbarians’ are far away from its gates, there are signs that the ‘us’ and ‘them’ divide is shrinking substantially. If letting the fact that one in six Indians live under the shadow of insurgency is something that the State is willing to overlook, it does so at its own peril.
The chicken-and-egg cycle of apathy and inability to fight a force with an extremist ideology has already started to show dangerous cracks in the State’s ability to keep the country ‘unified’. Part of the problem is that in areas controlled by Naxals — whether in Chhattisgarh, Bihar or Andhra Pradesh — the Government of India has been only a rumour for years. The State’s dereliction of duty has provided an opportunity for Maoists to be recognised as ‘the State’ for many Indians, whether they care for the Naxal ideology or not.
And to think that these citizens whom the State forgot are simply living in fear of the Naxals is to live in at least partial denial.
At the other end of the spectrum lies a different kind of apathy. With the lack of any intelligence mechanism and weapons worth their name, security personnel only present themselves as lame gestures scurrying about for the sake of scurrying about. Add to such injury the insult of about Rs 2,700 crore in development funds earmarked for extremist-affected districts not being spent in the last financial year, and we have a bomb that is allowed to tick.
And in case we think that not looking in the direction of areas where Naxals are freely operating will make them not exist, Maoists ‘liaising’ with mainstream parties for short-term political gains as is being reported in the East Midnapore area of West Bengal brings the menace actually closer to us than we prefer to acknowledge. It’s high time that the government both at the Centre and in the states takes a long, proactive look at the Naxal problem rather than simply shutting its eyes again and again.