India is at war with its own people. It doesn’t sound nice; it may even smack of exaggeration. But the truth is that under the flag of an extremist ideology, various factions of Naxalism had declared a war against the Indian State quite some time ago. Now it’s up to the Indian State to take them on and rid the country of their violent actions, no matter what they deem to call this purging exercise. The murder by decapitation of Inspector Francis Induwar that came to light earlier this week has left the nation jolted. Without taking away an iota of the horror of this death, however, such instances of brutal violence against fellow Indians have failed to make the Indian State go after the Naxals on a war footing.
The guerrilla tactics of the Naxal extremists already make for an asymmetrical war in which the all-visible behemoth of the State and its various representatives are ‘enemy targets’ while the State finds itself fighting against a shape-shifting chimera. But to add to this disadvantage is the plight of our police force that is not only badly prepared to protect people, but ill-equipped to even hold their own ground. In the light of recent developments, Home Minister P. Chidambaram has hinted that the armed forces, till now kept largely out of this arena, could enter this battle — after an Indian Air Force helicopter was reportedly fired at by Naxal forces a few weeks ago in Chhattisgarh. The Naxals have already claimed that they are ready for the major offensive being planned by the Indian government. The statement from the extremists that they have set up special training camps and obtained sophisticated weapons — as so proudly displayed during the Maoist siege of Lalgarh, West Bengal, in June — is no standard wake-up call. It is a call to arms. After deliberations, the Indian Air Force has wisely said that it will not indulge in any ‘Rambo operations’. The last thing the State needs at this crucial stage is to engage in knee-jerk operations or set the stage yet again for an underwhelming approach to tackling Naxal terror.
The cause for today’s so-called ‘ultra-Left’ violent movement is some 60 years of the Indian State walking away from large swathes of its own territory and abandoning a generation of its own people. That vacuum was bound to be occupied by some kind of opportunistic group or the other, the vast disparities in development, rights and opportunities making one particular kind finding it relatively easy to take matters into their own hands. These lost tracts, as well as hearts and minds, must be part of the Indian success story. But first, they must be reclaimed.