Centre gropes for solution to Naxalism
Even as the internal security situation on the western border is seemingly under control and efforts are on to neutralise insurgency in the Northeast, the Centre is apparently groping to find both short and long-term solutions to the Naxal problem, which is threatening to challenge democratically-elected governments in several states. The problem has already started assuming alarming proportions and if a quick response isn’t evolved, things could get out of hand.
The issue is likely to be discussed at the meeting of director generals of police over the next two days and some kind of workable policy is expected to be evolved once deliberations are complete. The Prime Minister, home minister and senior home ministry officials will also participate in the conference.
Politically, the Naxal threat is real and not imaginary, and needs to be handled not only as a law and order problem but as an issue that has socio-economic and political dimensions. Therefore, a mere bureaucratic view or table top theoretical simplification of the problem isn’t going to be adequate; a well-conceived and thought out response is required.
According to ministry estimates, at present, 76 districts in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra, West Bengal, UP and MP are badly affected by Naxalism. These are those districts comprising about 450 police stations from where incidents have been reported in the last two years. Besides, there are another 50-odd districts where Naxal groups have extended their influence/activity but not violence as such. These districts fall in the said nine states as well as Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In all, Naxal activities have been reported from 1,200 police stations.
In addition, Naxalites have identified 31 districts in some of these states and in Uttranchal as possible targets. According to a ministry official, Naxalites sometimes pursue the policy of tactical retreat, whereby they move away from certain areas to avoid police action and focus on other areas to expand their influence.
Intelligence reports suggest groups have so far only been using weapons procured indigenously and not through terrorist outfits, like LTTE, and other countries as speculated. Even though there are ideological linkages with similar outfits in Nepal and other countries, there is no evidence of logistical support from these areas.
Naxal groups usually have huge funds (Rs 100-150 crore a year) gathered through extortion, ransom, payment of levy on development activities or over movement of agricultural/minor forest produce and minerals. Besides, bank robberies and looting have been reported.
Government agencies put the total estimated number of hardcore underground cadre in the affected states at 9,300 — a significant growth from 2004 (2,165 recruited) and 2003 (831 recruited).