In his Independence Day speech, Manmohan Singh linked Naxalism with Islamic terrorism. Someone else has made the connection before the PM did: the Naxals and the Islamic terrorists. While it may be easier for those battling violence against the State to disengage the two forms of terrorism - Naxal and jehadi - it's becoming clear that enemies of the State may be pooling their strategies and resources to build a joint front. A meeting of the government's coordination centre on Left-wing extremism in Delhi on Wednesday attested to the growing success of jehadi outfits to find 'homegrown radicals' in conducting terrorist acts. The fact that not a single foreigner has been arrested in connection with the Mumbai blasts in July was cited by Intelligence Bureau Director ESL Narasimhan to point out a growing 'Indianisation' of terror.
The effects, if not the causes, of Naxalites mirror those of the jehadis: fear, death and destruction. But to simply join the dots and explain localised terrorism as the result of jehadi/foreign indoctrination is to be dangerously inept. Naxal terror has plagued the country before Islamic terrorism became a fearful catch-phrase. The pattern of Maoist presence and support has been to feed on the vacuum created by State dysfunction and apathy. This is not an apologia towards the Naxals but a fact, unpleasant and embarrassing though it might be for instruments of the State. But let there be no doubt that while 'seduction of the discontent' is a strategy for the Naxals, a deranged philosophy drives the Maoist motor. Which is why when Naxal leaders, such as Ganesh Ueike, secretary, West Bastar Divisional Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), talks of "liberating India from the clutches of feudalism and imperialism", points of engagement or negotiation with democratic India becomes pointless. The strategy that state governments facing Naxal terror as well as the Centre needs to chalk out is a double-pronged one: one in which the Naxalite network is destroyed while simultaneously winning back the 'hearts and minds' of the disaffected who sympathise with them.
Wednesday's meeting also talked about reimbursing states for use of aircraft in Naxal-hit areas. Apart from air support for evacuation and transport, there was also talk of using airpower for 'surgical strikes'. While this sounds terribly potent, such tactics 'a la Balochistan' make little real sense in Maoist-occupied terrains. More and better coordination on the ground between states and between the Centre and states, along with a proactive development strategy and policing is the antidote to Maoist terror.