Government hits back at Naxalites
With the affected states failing to crush leftist extremism on their own, a joint war has been mounted against the 'menace' with the Centre playing a pivotal role.india Updated: Dec 15, 2005 02:55 IST
With the affected states having failed to effectively crush red extremism on their own, a joint war on Red terror has been mounted with the Centre playing a pivotal role, particularly in the scenario of post-December 13 attack on Indian Parliament and India's pledge to eliminate all forms of extremism.
A stick and carrot policy has been evolved in coordination with all states concerned.
A Coordination Centre comprising Chief Secretaries and police chiefs of all the nine naxal-hit states has been established headed by Union Home Secretary. One of its prime aims is to choke escape routes of naxalites whose tactics of taking refuge in adjoining states after committing crimes has been effective over the years.
It annually reviews anti-naxal operations, which include bullets for radicals and sops for deserters and people in areas of ultra-Leftist influence. Central government has already agreed to share financial burden of the war against them.
The latest December 28 meeting of the Coordination Centre reviewed the situation in affected states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. It discussed steps needed to prevent fallout of Nepal Maoist violence in India and counter naxalites' "plans" to strike at high-profile targets. It was also decided to expedite developmental works in affected regions.
PWG, MCC banned: The Centre on December 5, 2001 banned People's War Group and Maoist Communist Centre, the fiercest naxalite outfit in India, under Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance. "All formations and front organisations of the CPI (ML) People's War and Maoist Communist Centre have been declared terrorist organisations under POTO," an official declaration said.
The ban clubs the duo with other dreaded terrorist groups like Lashkar-Tayeba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and ULFA besides 20 others, reflecting the toughest anti-naxalite stand of the Centre in years.
However, since the PWG had already been banned in AP and both PWG and MCC in Bihar, the efficacy of a nationwide ban is being debated.
The March 6, 2000 meeting of Coordination Centre has decided to improvise training for security forces engaged against naxalites. Greater sharing of intelligence between the states, setting up of joint groups at inspector-general level to facilitate co-ordinated operations and inter-state movement of troops were other measures finalised at the meet.
The March 6, 2000 meeting had agreed on the following points:
• Centre will examine and recommend desirability of raising an Indian Reserve Battalion to fight naxalites.
• Aerial photography of the affected zones will be considered.
• To make available monitoring equipment to intercept naxalites' wireless messages.
• A development plan will be outlined to rtemove socio-economic causes of naxalism.
•Inclusion of newer items and newer districts in the scheme for reimbursement of security-related expenditure (SRE).
• Special training facilities to be made available with assistance of Intelligence Bureau.
• Studying the proposal to form special inter-state operation groups against naxalites.
The state, worst hit by naxalism, has been pursuing a multi-pronged approach to tackle the "menace".
Social Initiative: While its Janmabhoomi programme aims at community participation by empowering Village Development Committees and Self Help Groups, authorities are gradually redistributing the land, which had earlier been "grabbed" by naxalites, among peasants.
Since 1993, the state has been offering attractive rehabilitation packages to bring naxalites back into the mainstream. More than 3905 naxalites have surrendered and over 1070 rehabilitated at a cost of over Rs. 10 crores so far.
The state is also utilising Central anti-poverty programme of Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana in the naxal-infested areas.
The state has also launched the AP Tribal Development Project with the help of United Nation's International Food and agriculture Development and the Dutch Government. It has resulted in setting up of 1030 Village Tribal Development Associations, more than 1230 Self-Help Groups and 467 grain-banks.
Law and Order Problem: Contrary to many socialists, the state considers Naxalism as a law and order problem. The data that only 433 of 2077 casualties in decade-long ultra-leftist violence in the state had caste or class orientation backs the state's stand.
In addition to banning PWG in the state and then pushing the Centre to ban it nation-wide under POTO, the state government had formed a special anti-naxal Police force called Grey Hounds who were equipped with modern weaponry and trained in guerrilla warfare.
The Disturbed Areas Act has been put in force in a number of naxalite-hit districts. Round the clock security is provided to almost all the key leaders in naxal-hit areas.
Chandrababu Naidu has proposed use of unmanned aerial vehicles to track naxalite movement. Although Defence Ministry has raised initial objections, the Centre is considering the proposal.
The state government has adopted a blow-hot-blow-cold approach to tackle naxalism.
The state government in July 2000 decided to constitute a Hawk Force on the lines of Gray Hounds of AP and to give the members of this force 70 per cent of their basic pay as Naxalite Operation Risk Allowance.
In May 2000, the state decided to give police officers in Naxalite-affected areas the powers of executive magistrates. The state assembly passed the MP Special Areas Security Bill 2000 on Nov 27, 2000.It has also decided to send its police officials to AP Police Academy for special training.
Besides taking steps to arm the forces with modern weapons and using helicopters to monitor naxal movement during elections, it has proposed to build 2,700 km of roads in the naxal-affected areas at a cost of Rs 201 crores. It has also launched a Jan Jagran Abhiyan to wean tribals out of naxalite influence.
The newly-created predominantly tribal state has got naxalism in legacy from its parent state Madhya Pradesh. Almost all its 16 districts, including the densely forested Bastar, have PWG presence.
Special Task Force has been pressed into service in all 16 districts of the state. It has decided to raise two new battalions of police.
Village Courts have been established in a bid to counter the 'people's court' conducted by Naxalites.
A minor forest produce costs and prices committee has been set up to recommend minimum support prices for all minor forest produce except tendu leaves to check exploitation of tribals.
The large-scale poverty, caste and class struggles, "criminal politics and bad administration" have more or less failed all the anti-naxalite measures. In vast areas of abject poverty, these factors have in fact strengthened PWG and MCC -- the most dreaded ultra-leftist forces in the state. Caste armies like Ranvir Sena and continued revenge killings have compounded the problem.
Experts say, in some cases the anti-naxalism measures have actually helped Red ultras. Operation Siddharth, Jawahar Rozgar Yojna and Minimum Needs Programme aimed at providing relief to oppressed classes had just the opposite effect due to "bad governance".
To make it worse, the state police are inadequately equipped to counter ultras' modern firepower.
It has launched an exercise to identify areas where landowners had been reportedly evicted by some naxalite outfits. Officials say naxal groups are allegedly forcing villagers to cultivate "occupied land" and take up arms. The government intends to takeover all the naxal-occupied agricultural land and distribute it among villagers. However, the state police are poorly equipped. The state plans to modernise the police set-up and raise two additional battalions.
Orissa has put Rs 20-crore proposal to the Centre to tackle naxalism. According to an action plan, Orissa police will be trained in jungle warfare by its counterparts in Andhra Pradesh.
The state is raising Indian Reserve Battalion and Eighth Battalion to fight Naxals. While Orissa will bear the cost of raising Eighth Battalion, Centre and State will share the cost of Indian Reserve Battalion.
The State Government has also devised an inter-state co-ordination mechanism to deal with the problem. Orissa part of common war zone.
Both Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have urged the Centre to amend the Forest Conservation Act so as to remove legal hurdles for laying new roads and starting development projects in tribal-dominated areas.
Comprehensive land reforms in West Bengal under the Left Front government has taken away much of rationale for the ultra-leftist movement in the state. However, many an ultra-leftist still have their roots there.
First Published: May 09, 2003 17:34 IST