The brutal, daylight murder of JMM MP Sunil Kumar Mahato is another reminder that Naxalites constitute one of the most serious threats to India’s internal security. This threat will not wither away unless the basic structure of the present-day Naxal movement and the nature of the forces sustaining it are fully comprehended and accounted for in the government strategy.
Naxalites are presently much better organised, led and motivated than in 1960s, when they burst like a ‘spring thunder’ in the Naxalbari area of West Bengal. Both in policy and strategy, the movement has undergone a shift. While it has been gaining in strength since the 1990s, the most significant change occurred in September 2004, when the major groups — the Maoist Communist Centre and the People’s War Group — merged to form a united outfit called CPI (Maoist). The programme of the CPI (Maoist) has been christened the New Democratic Revolution, which underlines that the new strategy is one of the protracted armed struggle whose objective is not seizure of land, crops etc., but the seizure of the State power. The unity of various groups, the renewed enthusiasm of the leaders and their recognition of the damage done in the past by faction-fighting and group clashes have pushed the Naxalite movement in a stronger phase.
There is a widespread impression among the rural poor that the economic policies initiated in 1991 are inimical to their interests. This helps Naxalites to enlist more recruits. They have also rapidly transformed themselves into a modern guerrilla force of 25,000 persons. They no longer depend on country-made pistols, but possess sophisticated communication system and weapons — AK 47, grenades, rocket launchers, landmines, etc.
A red corridor, extending from the jungles of north Bihar to Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra, Maharashtra and Karnataka, is emerging. The objective is to establish a ‘compact revolutionary zone’ in the heart of India and use this to extend the movement to the cities. The ultimate goal is the establishment of a Maoist State. How could this be avoided and the country spared of bloodshed? I will spell out two suggestions, one relating to politics and the other to economy.
Experience has shown that wherever special trained squads have been put in operation over a long period of time, the outcome has been encouraging. But it is unfortunate that the excellent results achieved by Andhra Pradesh’s special units were frittered away during the last Lok Sabha elections on account of petty politics of vote-bank.
The politics has been played earlier too. In 1982, N.T. Rama Rao played it with consummate skill. He called the Naxalites true patriots who had been misunderstood by the ruling classes. M. Chenna Reddy, Congress CM, acted no differently. In 1989, he, too, declared that Naxalites were patriots. When Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu adopted a firm approach against Naxalites, it was Rajasekhar Reddy’s turn to appease them. In other states, too, political parties and leaders have not hesitated to arrive at an understanding with the Naxalites. It is, indeed, unfortunate that short-term political gains are often given precedence over the need for a clear, consistent and firm line. An apolitical and coordinated approach of the central and the state governments, special police units and trained squads are necessary.
On the economic front, a sustained campaign needs to be launched to relieve rural distress. A process of de-ruralisation and simultaneous urbanisation and industrialisation should be initiated. It should be ensured that those who are displaced because of development projects are absorbed in those very projects. Their monetary compensation should be invested in the company in the form of shares with a guaranteed return equivalent to the amount of compensation. This would provide four-fold benefits. First, the risk of compensation money being squandered would be eliminated. Second, the recipient, by virtue of his investment, would develop an interest in the advancement of the company. Third, in the event of failure of the company, the rock-bottom amount would be available to the investors. Fourth, the displaced person would become a skilled person, and if he seizes the opportunity to further upgrade his skills, a brighter future would be opened to him and his family.
It must be understood that the Naxal movement is inherently dangerous. Equally nihilistic is the Naxalites’ attitude towards the idea of India. They advocate the right of so-called nationalities of India to self-determination and secession, knowing well that this could only lead to unending divisions and the ultimate extinction of the Indian entity.
Jagmohan is former Governor of J&K and former Union Minister of Urban Development