Salwa Judum is the only effective weapon against Maoist terror at present
It is a pity that supercop KPS Gill (who died last week) could not serve long enough in Chhattisgarh where he was sent to advise the State Government on dealing with Maoist terror. In any case he was not given hands-on responsibility there. He was never comfortable with being a backroom boy since he always led from the front. In dealing with the vicious insurgency in Punjab, his formula was simple: Kill them before they kill you.
Arguably, the nature of Chhattisgarh’s Left-wing “infantile disorder” generated by a Maoist brains trust, is very different from what India faced in Punjab. First, the disturbances in the jungles of Bastar are directed by certain “intellectual” masterminds. In other words, there is an ideological veneer to the Naxalites’ campaign here. Second, working assiduously on tribals living in isolation from an emerging India, the Maoists successfully persuaded many of them to confront and destroy all instruments of the state. Accordingly, tribals are trained to target not just the security forces but also government offices, schools, hospitals and even contractors building roads in the remote interiors.
The tragedy is that many poor, illiterate tribals have been brainwashed into believing that the Indian state is encroaching on their traditional way of life and livelihood. Howsoever absurd that claim may be, the fact is that either out of fear or misplaced conviction, many foot soldiers of the Maoist cadre believe in that theory.
Mao Zedong had theorised: “People are the sea and we are the fish. As long as we swim in the sea we can survive.” Something similar is the case with the Maoists of Chhattisgarh. In this scenario, frontal combat with the enemy is impossible. To quote another dictum of Mao: “When the enemy attacks we retreat. When the enemy camps, we harass.” This is precisely what the masterminds of the insurrection have been doing successfully in killing security forces personnel when they break for lunch during transit marches.
The key to winning the battle against the Maoist leaders is intelligence and that is in short supply here because of the terror they have created in these remote areas. Besides, the Maoists are helped by the army of overground sympathisers in cities like Delhi who are ready to pounce on security forces whenever encounters take place. No mention is ever made of the innocent tribals liquidated under orders of the kangaroo courts. Due to the atmosphere of fear it is difficult for reliable information of Maoists’ movements, whereas they seem to have accurate details of security forces’ transit plans.
Overground sympathisers accomplished a great victory when they got the courts to intervene to disband the highly effective Salwa Judum movement backed by the state government. That movement was aimed at securing villages from Maoist terror and enabling villagers to cultivate their fields under police protection.
In the long run, there is no effective alternative to Salwa Judum, whatever new name may be given to it. Clubbing villages together within secure perimeters and providing gainful employment to tribal youth has to be the government’s mission. Simultaneously, political parties need to come together, as they did for Salwa Judum to help build tribal leadership to counter the evil influence of Maoism, which has been destructive in the extreme.
With the terrorists targeting schools it is obvious they want to keep the tribals in the bondage of illiteracy and abject poverty so they can provide cannon fodder to the insurrectionists. It is common knowledge that tribal women are routine abducted and forced into sexual slavery to the Maoist leaders. This deserves wider publicity.
The government also needs to chart out a lucrative surrender policy which should include the relocation of surrendered tribals outside Bastar. The police must reorient its policies and be accepted as a friendly rather than confrontationist force. The police must systematically separate the chaff from the grain. Hardcore Maoists must be dealt with using an iron hand , while weaning away tribals from their influence. The problem is particularly acute in a place called Abujh Madh where contractors and government officers have hitherto exploited tribals, especially the women. The government has to give exemplary punishment to its staff if found to indulge in such practices.
Most important, tribals must be convinced that their future lies in the region’s development. But to convince them of the future, a sustained ideological battle must be waged to intellectually cripple their overground sympathisers particularly in certain dens of subversion and anti-Indianism, such as JNU.
Chandan Mitra is editor of The Pioneer and has been two-time Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP
The views expressed are personal