The home ministry’s newly-appointed point man for anti-Naxal operations is steadfast against the use of the military in tackling the left-wing extremists.
Former top cop K Vijay Kumar, who was pulled out of his retirement job as an adviser to the Jharkhand governor to help the home ministry strategise an effective counteraction plan to tackle Naxalism, shared his insight into the problem in an interview with HT last week.
“Army is the ultimate weapon of the country. We should use it carefully,” said Kumar, 62, who is best known for heading the operation that led to the elimination of forest brigand Veerappan in 2004.
“We have a large paramilitary force well-trained to combat insurgency. They also carry similar weapons and equipments (to the Army),” he said, justifying Centre’s decision to not rush the military after the May 25 Sukma (Chhattisgarh) massacre that killed 25 people, mostly senior Congress leaders.
According to Kumar, the rebels are losing ground in Jharkhand and Bihar, the two other hotbeds after Chhattisgarh.
But he also pointed out that some villages in Sukma and Jagdalpur were out of the government’s reach completely. The two districts have practically been overrun by the leftist extremists who have set up a parallel government in the last 20 years. “Increased political development in these areas threatened their sovereignty. Hence, they carried out the dastardly attack,” he said, referring to the attack on the Congress convoy.
So what is the solution? “The solution lies in pushing security (forces) followed by quick development,” he said, adding: “The strategy should be swift enough to ensure development takes place as soon as security forces reclaim an area. Progress should not come five years late.”
According to Kumar, a troika of problems is the biggest stumbling block in reclaiming Maoist hotbeds. Lack of political machinery coupled with no access to development is only worsened by a missing security apparatus that has let the rebels take control. “These vacuums should be addressed immediately. What should go first is always debatable. But I think security should be pushed first followed by development and political activity.”
As CRPF director general, Kumar had successfully led his jawans to Abujhmad—till then uncharted territory in Chhattisgarh—in 2012. Abujhmad is still a Naxal stronghold, most of which has not been seen yet. He says the foray exposed how governance failed to penetrate several parts of the country even after 66 years of independence.
“Maoists took control of this area way back in 1986. People there have grown up in the Maoist model of development and rule, which is absolutely impractical in today’s world.”
Kumar faults the Maoist argument that people take up arms on a grouse against the government. “I say their violent intermediations cannot be the solution. Government should be given a chance to go in and launch integrated development. I recommend integrated development centres (IDC) in such areas wherein you have a medical unit, ration shops, BDO office, anganwadi centres and police camp in one campus.”
Notably, the former IPS officer also believes the red rebels have grown weaker in Bihar and Jharkhand over the last couple of years. He said they have lost four out of their eight bastions—they call it zones in their parlance—spread over the two states in last couple of years.
“Their sudden bout of violence is out of frustration and anxiety. They want to prove they are still in business.”
Kumar suggests Naxal-hit states emulate Andhra Pradesh, which has made combat-training mandatory for everyone in the police. “In Jharkhand, we have followed the AP model making training in special task forces (STF) mandatory for everyone in the police,” he added.