Wednesday, April 21, 2010
New Delhi : Days after the biggest Maoist attack, in which 76 security personnel were killed in Dantewada, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today asserted that firm action would be taken against those challenging the authority of the state, but, in a careful moderation, added that one could not overlook the fact that Left-wing extremism flourished in underdeveloped areas.
Singh’s observations on the Naxal issue came at a gathering of the country’s top bureaucrats on the occasion of the Civil Services Day here. Singh asked them to come up with innovative ways to ensure the benefit of government programmes reached people in the remotest villages.
“Recent events have underscored the need for urgent and considered action to root out this problem,” he said, referring to the Dantewada attack, even as he affirmed “no quarter can be given to those who have taken upon themselves to challenge the authority of the Indian state and the fabric of our democratic polity”.
While reiterating that Left-wing extremism was possibly India’s gravest internal security threat, the Prime Minister said the fact that it was dominant in underdeveloped areas could not be ignored.
“We cannot overlook the fact that many areas in which such extremism flourishes are under-developed and many of the people, mainly poor tribals, who live in these areas have not got equitable share in the fruits of development,” he said.
Honouring those bureaucrats who had excelled in public administration — one of them, incidentally, awarded for bringing innovative changes in the Naxal-affected district of Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh — the Prime Minister said that it is “incumbent upon us to ensure that no area of our country is denied the benefits of our ambitious developmental programmes”.
He asked civil servants to harness information technology and to involve intended beneficiaries in implementation so that leakages, corruption and lack of transparency could be checked.
Singh said that fast and inclusive growth was the centerpiece of the developmental agenda of the UPA, which would not be possible without civil servants playing a major role. He also asked bureaucrats to pay special attention to the agriculture sector with focus on increasing productivity of dry land, rainfed areas.
By Col JK Achuthan
Issue: Vol 25.2 Apr-Jun 2010
“The armed Threat from within is more dangerous than any external Threats.” -Leon Trotsky
Today the greatest danger to India’s independence and flourishing democracy is the danger posed by the ever widening zones of Maoist influence. The Maoists want to turn back the clock of history by a hundred years and engulf India in flames, thereby ceding great advantages to our predatory adversaries who are playing a waiting game like the hungry wolves of the highlands. The Maoists are even prepared to split India in order to seize power over whatever parts they can effectively control. This danger will get magnified if ever the Indian Army gets involved in the political game to drag it into anti Maoist operations. We cannot let the same error committed by the KMT regime in China during the last century be repeated in India. Since ‘law and order’ is normally a State subject, many of the States having large proportion of poor and tribal population have been turning a blind eye, and the politicians-contractors-elites have been desperately trying to work out temporary arrangements to buy peace.
Today the Maoists dominated areas already cover the vast coal, iron ore, and alumina rich mining areas, as well as many vital hydroelectric and irrigation dam project areas of the country, thereby directly threatening swift national development and vital investments. As the Maoists can freely move from one State to another through the adjacent forested areas, they are able to concentrate their cadres and strike with dreadful effect even on very large targets like Jails, District HQs, large raw material factories, hijack trains, or disrupt national rail and road corridors with impunity. These acts cause a further telling demoralizing effect on the affected State’s Police Force, while the other neighbouring States watch and think themselves to be lucky this time. The Central Government has been busy keeping statistics and occasionally taking political mileage in opposition ruled States, while its Home Ministry’s Paramilitary Forces remains divided as several separate entities without any central unified controlling, coordinating and internal security operations directing HQ. Had this situation existed in say Iran, all the PMFs would have been merged into the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and would have emerged as an elite force dreaded by their opponents even more than their country’s Army. In this quagmire of political rivalries, bureaucratic inaction, police empires, and lack of support for imaginative, effective policing coupled with simultaneous government supported developmental schemes, the shining example of Andhra Pradesh stands out within the Indian Union - in tackling the Maoists’ violence head on and winning the war hands down. The Andhra Pradesh Police have borrowed the motto of the famous Selous Scouts (of Rhodesia), “The Bush War has to be Fought in the Bushes” and lived up to it.
Background to the Maoist Movement in India
The first armed Communist movement in India took place in the Telengana region of present day Andhra Pradesh during the early fifties. It was brutally put down after great loss of life and unleashing of oppression against the poor peasants. The movement’s leaders included several idealists, though they too committed heinous and unpardonable crimes. The Telengana region even today has produced the most dedicated and committed Maoist cadres and leaders in India.
During the late sixties and early seventies the Naxalite movement started and spread in many parts of India, most notably in West Bengal and Kerala. But within a matter of five to six years, this dangerous and anarchist ideology was effectively tackled by the State Police forces and many of those who had taken up arms were eliminated. Generally peace prevailed from the mid seventies onwards. Leftist ideologues continued their activities using democratic means and formed many regional splinter groups. However their mass influence and acceptance was minimal. From the mid nineties many armed radical Communist Dalams became active in the common underdeveloped and adjacent forested areas of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Chathisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. However it was the leaders from Andhra Pradesh who took the lead to unify these groups, formulate their common dogma and policies, start centralized armed training of core cadres, ensure an efficient arms and explosives procurement network, coordinate the intelligence gathering by over ground workers and sympathizers, and develop operational capabilities based on hitting weak targets with overwhelming local superiority followed by quick dispersal. They worked amongst the poor and dispossessed and acted frequently against the exploiters thus gaining a strong local following and acceptability.
Their morale also got a tremendous boost when the Nepali Maoist movement became very strong and entrenched against the oppressive and corrupt Royal rule there. Thus a great swathe of Maoist dominated influence came into being by the first decade of this century. Funds flowed into their coffers from the mining interests, contractors, and from illegal octroi collections. The States abdicated their authority over vast regions, as long as the semblance of normalcy could be maintained and the electoral interests of the dominant political party could be taken care of. However this facade had to crack one day, as the doctrine of power dictates that the superior entity has to keep on expanding in order to ensure its very survival, until a balance of power and human failings combine to dictate the limits. We have presently reached this stage in our country. The Maoists, respective State Governments, and the Central Government have all become aware of each other’s strengths, but are not yet ready to raise the stakes any further and go all out for the required push which is essential to achieve total victory.
The Situation in Andhra Pradesh during the Nineties and Early Part of this Decade
The newly formed Telugu Desam had stormed to power in 1989 creating a world record for the shortest period after registration as a political party, for an entity to win an election. Many populist schemes were undertaken by NT Rama Rao during his first stint as CM, and he enjoyed vast mass support. During his next term in office after winning power again in the 1994 elections, many deviations and laxity of administration set in, besides family squabbles, which culminated in his being unseated and the reins of power going to N Chandrababu Naidu in 1995 who was an astute politician and a strong administrator. Simultaneously the Maoist organisations became strong all over Andhra Pradesh. Many youths flocked to this movement both as over-ground workers as well as in the ranks of the underground armed cadres. A parallel administration was created in many Mandals (Taluks). But Chandrababu Naidu also rose to the occasion and tackled the bull by the horns. Being not part of the Central Government, he did not expect much help from the Centre nor did he wish to be overly dependant. After several brainstorming sessions with his close advisers and noted security experts, he decided upon a two pronged approach of re-establishing the writ of the civil administration and ensuring that developmental works are pursued, and secondly strengthening and revitalizing the Police Force whatever be the costs. The Andhra Pradesh Police Force underwent a total transformation in its work culture and level of accountability and within a year’s time started showing results against the Maoists. They gained the upper hand against the entrenched Maoists who then either laid low or migrated to neighbouring States, or got eliminated.
This activist policy was continued by his successor YS Rajasekhara Reddy of the Congress who won the elections in 2004. YSR’s entire focus was on the upliftment of the rural population. He spent the colossal sum of Rs 50,000 crores in setting up new irrigation schemes and improving the existing ones over a period of five years. Slowly the peasants became Kulaks and benefited from State sponsored subsidies like free power, land allotments, heavily subsidized housing schemes, scholarships, free emergency ambulance service, very low cost Group Health Insurance Scheme (Arogyasri) - where the costs of treatment in any private hospital for any serious ailment was fully reimbursed to the poor. The oxygen of the Maoists got turned off, as here was a Government which was totally focused on rural development and upliftment of the poor classes, even though urban development and industrial sectors were gravely neglected compared to the previous Telugu Desam government. But at no time was security ever neglected. The Central funding components could be tapped to the fullest extent for various schemes, and this helped the State to usher in even larger budgets. Andhra Pradesh today has the largest state budget in India, even bigger than that of Bangladesh.
AP Government’s Successful Methods Against the Maoists and Its Police Tactics
The State Police’s Intelligence Wing has been separated from the Police HQs and made an independent establishment reporting directly to the CM’s Office. It does not have any rigid territorial restrictions and can follow up any leads. The intelligence setup has been provided with competent officers, ample funds, and necessary technical backup. Next, most of the Armed Reserve Police Battalions have been converted into Commando Units and they come under the Greyhounds Grouping having a separate IG. All new Police inductees have to spend their first four years of service in these Greyhound Units before getting their transfer to the District Police Establishments. Meritorious service with the Greyhound Units has been made a mandatory requirement to get accelerated promotions, including for filling up of Grade I Officer Posts selection vacancies in the State Cadre.
All Greyhound personnel serving in Maoist affected areas were given 50 per cent additional Commando Pay as incentive. The Greyhounds Training School was revamped and new Training Courses and Methodologies introduced, which are conducted with strict devotion and supervision. Suitable training facilities have been built up at each Greyhounds Unit location for imparting refresher training. The concept of keeping one Administrative and Security Duties Company and one Training Company at all times in the Battalion HQ has been strictly implemented. Most importantly the remaining six companies were deployed as three Joint Operational Bases (JOBs) consisting of two companies each. Experience proved that single company deployment was not giving optimum operational results nor providing the necessary nucleus for the civil administration to function safely and effectively in the Maoist affected regions.
These JOBs in the heart of Maoist affected areas were located within mutually supporting distances. It was normal for a complete Greyhounds Battalion to be deployed within 1-2 gravely Maoist affected Mandal (Taluk) areas, as then they could operate without fear of IEDs, ambushes etc. Each such Greyhound JOB also had two Home Guard Platoons who were recruited from amongst the locals. Over a period of time, they acted as guides, interpreters etc, besides performing most of the routine garrison functions, thus freeing the Greyhounds for ‘area domination’ and ’seek encounter’ patrolling operations. Each Greyhound JOB could send out upto four platoon strength patrols out, at any given time. Hostel facilities were created within the JOB for the Government officials of various rural development departments as well as for contractors and their staff to stay and work in total safety. Each Greyhound JOB always had a Dy SP/Asst SP ranked Class I Gazetted Officer as In Charge. This created a sea change in the environment and ensured accountability for maintaining sustained operations. Within a few months itself, the Maoists started feeling asphyxiated as their domination ended.
Another important functional aspect was that the Greyhounds did not report to or work under the District Police set up. The Greyhound Units reported to the Special DIG HQ In Charge for that Maoist affected Region, overlapping- several adjacent districts. Their operations were supplemented by adequate Technical Intelligence Teams working under this Special DIG HQ, which could intercept any wireless transmission made by the Maoists and do the Direction Finding Fix. With the advent of cellular phones, they also specialized in tracking down Maoist locations using fixes made from two or more cell phone Towers. This enhanced the accuracy of directed response, and reduced the time lag for the Greyhound patrol teams to make active contact with the Maoist Dalams. The credit for developing the Greyhounds’ organization, selection, training and successful tactics primarily goes to their then IG Dr Durga Prasad, who could out-think and outwit the well entrenched Maoists and also keep progressively adapting.
The sustained campaign carried out by the Andhra Pradesh State Police during 2005 to clear the Nallamalla Hills region in the heart of Andhra Pradesh encompassing the adjacent forested areas of Kurnool, Prakasam, and Kadapa districts is a classic success story in counter insurgency operations in India, worth being emulated by even the Indian Army in J&K. The Maoist Dalams were well embedded in this region for over 15 years and nobody from the Government dared to go into these areas. Four Greyhound Units working under a single Special DIG HQ established 13 JOBs covering the mountainous and forested terrain of approximately 5000 sq km. This works out to an area coverage of approximately 400 sq km per JOB at the peak of operations. The Maoists reacted very violently with great stealth, IED blasts, assassination of locals, and planned ambushes. But within a matter of six months, the weekly attrition rates started taking their toll and their cadres got demoralized, as they had to keep running in the jungles constantly without getting shelter and sufficient help from the habitated areas. The Greyhounds went on improving in their tactics and morale. Their losses were few and were immediately replaced in both men and equipment. After a year’s time there were no more Maoists left in this area and they were forced to give up this legendary bastion. Thereafter the Greyhounds strength there was reduced to one half of the original deployment. After the period of active operations was over, the Greyhounds deployment in the JOBs was never brought down to below Company strength for very sound operational and functional reasons, and the Maoists have so far not ventured to come back into this erstwhile ‘liberated’ zone. The relieved Greyhound Units have been redeployed onto the other Maoist affected interstate border areas, where they have repeated their operational successes and driven the Maoists out of AP. The neighbouring States then started requesting the Greyhounds to operate across the border.
The lesson learnt is that there is no armed insurgency in India which cannot be put down within two years, if the right proportion of forces differential is created and sustained locally for at least a period of six months. After wiping out the insurgents in a particular area, 50 per cent of the Security Forces can be redeployed to another area to create the right Forces differential there. The French treatise ‘Pacification Operations in Algeria’ written in 1963 by Col David Galuta clearly summarized counterinsurgency as “80 per cent protection of the civil population by cutting down ‘unrisky access’ to them by the insurgents, and the balance 20 per cent of the effort to be directed in maintaining a steady and sustained attrition rate - on weekly and monthly basis.” At no cost should the first cleared target region be left totally denuded of Security Forces deployment, otherwise within a matter of a few months, insurgency conditions will be back to previous levels, and the hard won gains would have soon got frittered away.
The Economics and Good Governance Aspects of the Anti Maoist Offensive in AP
What Chandrababu Naidu perfected as the new Police methodology to tackle and root out the armed Maoist groupings, this has been exceeded in far greater measure and significance by his successor, the Late YS Rajasekhar Reddy (YSR) in his epochal shifting of the direction of State spending towards the Rural Sector, creation of additional irrigation potential (Jalayagnam Scheme), and several Poverty Alleviation Programmes never before seen in India since Independence. The total allocations for Rural Sector activities are double that of for all the Urban Sector - Infrastructure Development, and Industrial Promotion activities combined. This approach had not only brought rich political dividends, but also has knocked the winds out of all Maoist and Naxalite ‘ground level organizers’ even in the most remote hamlets. The popular saying goes that though the roads in Andhra Pradesh may still be full of potholes, and the urban areas perhaps the dirtiest, but in the rural areas there is not a single member of a poor household who has not benefited from at least three of the following freebies - viz seven hours of assured and free electricity for agricultural activity, free low cost house, 25 kg of heavily subsidized rice for each household, Very Low Cost (and all encompassing) Health Insurance Scheme (Arogyasri), Reimbursement of Higher Education Fees for low income families, and anyone type of Social Welfare Pension for the Aged or Destitute. YSR never gave the least opportunity or space to his political detractors to exploit any popular resentment, and he was always found touring and checking the progress of development activities in all the districts of this vast State.
Tackling the long-standing and burning issue of armed Maoist violence and unquestioned domination of the vital raw materials producing regions of the country has become an urgent national issue which can no longer be procrastinated or wished away. The Maoists have cleverly played upon the sentiments and decades of developmental neglect experienced by the poor people in remote regions, to build up a strong base of sympathizers, dedicated over-ground workers, and most significantly - armed Dalams consisting of battle hardened cadres who have already tasted success and have no fear of the Security Forces. They can now converge into Battalion or Brigade sized groupings at their time and place of choosing. With each passing day the Police Forces of the affected States grow more limp and hold the Maoists in greater dread. The Maoists are clearly winning the battle of the mind and they only have to wait to increase in strength. At this rate the Maoist problem will soon start pulling down the country’s favourable GDP growth rate by at least one to two per cent. It is true that Law and Order is a State subject, but the Centre cannot wash its hand away, especially in areas where there is no law and order left and the affected States are asking for help. Anti-Maoist operations cannot be treated like the hurried and non-organic additional deployment of Paramilitary Forces during election time. It is no point assigning some additional number of PMF Companies collected from different Units from many parts of the country, to be placed at the disposal of the district administration for short periods. The district police set up have neither the competence nor the required focus and skills to carry out full fledged anti-insurgency operations at their level. What is essentially required is to work out the ‘CI Grid deployment’ based on JOBs, and the State Police/Central PMF Special DIG HQs should be made in charge of operations, as had been done in Andhra Pradesh. To ensure accountability, coordination, and willing cooperation of all the available Forces, there is the dire need to set up a single empowered DG level HQ of the Central PMF to coordinate with the respective State Police HQs. There should be a method worked out so that the deployment of the Central Home Ministry Forces should not last more than a period of two years, during which time the State Police Forces must get sufficiently built up and trained on the Greyhounds pattern, to relieve them permanently. This implies that the deployment pattern of the Central PMFs has to change every year, so that the correct Forces differential can be created in the specified areas. The PMFs have the obvious disadvantage of not knowing the local language and customs, therefore adequate local State Police or Home Guards should be attached to them. The Maoist menace can surely be defeated by adopting a pan-India activist and sustained developmental approach, piecemeal and sporadic campaigns will surely fail miserably.
300 cadres involved; they relied on one LMG, rifles and hand grenades
JAGARGUNDA: Reports that Maoists used 1,000 fighters and three light machine guns and booby-trapped all trees on April 6 were exaggerated, according to Ramanna, secretary of the south Bastar regional committee of the CPI (Maoist) and architect of the attack, in which 75 CRPF personnel and a head constable of the Chhattisgarh police and eight rebels were killed in Dantewada district.
“They saw us before we saw them,” he said. “They opened fire on our fighters while we were still setting up the ambush.”
In an interview to The Hindu in the forests of Dantewada district, Ramanna alias Ravula Srinivas claimed that the reports of firepower used in the attack were exaggerated.
Accounts gleaned from the intelligence, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Chhattisgarh police and the soldiers who took part in the rescue operations have focussed on the large number of Maoists involved in the attack, and the critical role played by improvised explosive devices planted across the field where the ambush occurred.
The role played by IEDs is significant, indicating the level of planning behind the ambush. A well-mined site indicates that the ambushing party (in this case the Maoists) had ample time to plan its attack. A rifle-ambush, on the other hand, suggests a fluid battlefield scenario.
‘Only one IED blast'
According to Ramanna, the Maoists took a little over 40 minutes to set up the ambush and relied mainly on one LMG and a combination of AK-47s, INSAS rifles and hand grenades to inflict heavy casualties. “The only IED blast was the one that took out the bullet-proof vehicle on the main road,” he said. “Media reports keep referring to 3 LMGs and booby traps in the trees, but we used one LMG and didn't have the time to plant IEDs.”
“We used only three companies with a total of 300 fighters,” said Ramanna. “A majority were on the site of the ambush, while two groups were posted about one km from the CRPF camps at Chintalnar and Chintagupha to ambush any reinforcements.”
If true, Ramanna's account suggests that the Maoists succeeded in their attack largely because of superior intelligence and superior numbers, as they had kept track of the movements of the CRPF patrol for three days before the April 6 attack.
Six IEDs recovered
According to reports in local newspapers, the CRPF recovered six IEDs in the following days, suggesting that the CRPF chanced upon the Maoists as they were preparing the ambush.
“About two-thirds of the 76 personnel died of bullet injuries,” said a source in the Chhattisgarh police, who has access to the post mortem report. The others died in blasts caused by either grenades or high explosives. “Only one person was killed by an IED.”
Kochi: CPI(M) on Wednesday said the fight against Maoists cannot be seen purely as law and order situation or a fight against terrorist violence.
The fight against Maoists must be conducted politically, ideologically and where they resort to violence administratively, CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat told reporters here when asked about the recent Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh which claimed the lives of 76 CRPF personnel.
But it should be in a framework of the fact that Maoists are operating predominantly in the tribal areas, which are remote and mountainous regions. These are areas where tribals are the most exploited and deprived socially and economically, he said.
The biggest assets of the tribals are their land and habitat. 'But now there is displacement from that. If you allow mining companies to come to indiscriminately in Chhattisgarh, parts of Orissa... That is what is happening today. Government has allowed hundred per cent FDI in mining.'
On the April 27 opposition hartal against price rise of essential commodities, he said 'We are not for toppling or de-establising the government'. Food inflation had touched over 17 per cent, the 'highest' in the world. Petrol and diesel prices had been hiked and excise and customs duties gone up. Government should scrap the increase in excise and customs duty which has cascading effect, he said.
On PSUs' disinvestment, he said all trade unions should take up the entire question of disinvestment and launch a united struggle. 'BSNL employees went on strike yesterday. Sail, Coal India... a series of disinvestment are being planned.'
Referring to S N C Lavalin case in which CBI has chargesheeted CPI(M) Kerala secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, he said 'we have always maintained that the case was politically motivated. We will fight it politically and legally'.
Durgapur, April 20: The arrested help of Samir Biswas, a doctor wanted by police for alleged Maoist links, has apparently said he used to assist the physician in treating guerrillas injured in encounters in the Jungle Mahal of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.
“Susanta Pal told us he had learnt from the doctor to administer injections and bandage wounds. He claimed to have been inspired by Maoist ideology staying with the doctor for 17 years,” a police officer said.
A massive police swoop, involving 16 jeeps and 100 personnel, on the doctor’s home on the outskirts of Asansol town drew a blank on Monday morning. The Burdwan district police chief said they had specific charges against Biswas, 63, who retired as the head of Eastern Coalfields’ main hospital in Asansol three years ago.
A police officer said they had been tipped off about the doctor a fortnight ago. “Intelligence reports said Maoists were coming to his house for treatment. We deployed cops in mufti there but no one came. We thought it was a false alarm,” the officer said. Another tip-off came on Sunday night. The district police were told that the doctor was to meet some Maoist leaders at home.
Susanta, from Galsi in Burdwan, had been hired by the doctor as a cook but ended up being his compounder.
He is said to have told the police that the doctor had left home in his Maruti Alto on Sunday evening, saying he won’t be back for a few days. “It is very easy to flee to Jharkhand, only 8km from Asansol town,” an officer said.
During the raid yesterday, the police seized a book titled Encyclopaedia of Arms. “Susanta told us the doctor bought it for Rs 900 from a local book fair in January. The book has details about various modern firearms. Anybody can buy such a book but we are curious about the doctor’s interest in it,” the officer said.
One of Biswas’s former colleagues claimed he used to carry a revolver with him. “He often came to our house and chatted with my husband. He showed us a revolver one day and said he always carried it,” the colleague recalled.
The police could not say if it was licensed weapon. Susanta has been remanded in police custody till April 25.
in INDIA NEWS
Posters demanding the withdrawal of anti-Maoist operations were found in Baharampur town in West Bengal’s Murshidabad Wednesday, hours before Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s visit to inaugurate a drinking water project, police said.
The posters were pasted on the wall of a school, a Communist Party of India-Marxist office and the district court, police sources said.
The posters denounced the central and state governments for their joint operation against the Maoists in various parts of the country including in West Midnapore district’s Lalgarh area.
“Oppose the war let loose by the state forces on the tribals,” the posters said. Baharampur is about 200 km north of Kolkata.
The article is a journalistic account of what is happening on the other side of the battle lines in this War in Chhatisgarh which is also called Operation Green Hunt. It provides the readers with the story of what the Maoists are doing and thinking and how they are received and perceived by the villagers living in the areas where they operate. It is a detailed, sensitive and honest account of their history, their motivations, their thinking and their methods. Precisely because the account provides the perspective of the Maoists, it is a very valuable account, one that the people of the country need to hear. It is after all a phenomenon which has been described as the most serious security threat to the country. It is important for the people of the country to be as well informed as possible about the phenomenon of Maoism and how it has arisen so that a properly informed decision can be taken about how to deal with its challenges. In our view, the authorities on their own should have elicited inputs on the Maoist activity across the States, from as many diverse sources as possible and formulated its strategy to deal with the problem in a holistic and sensitive manner, essentially keeping the interests of the tribal central to such a strategy. Arundhati Roy's inputs need to be viewed in this context.
Whether or not one agrees with the writer, a country which prides itself as a democracy must allow the free and honest expression of such views. Any attempt to stifle such expression of views on pain of prosecution would not only be violative of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution, it would seriously undermine the country’s claim that it is a robust working democracy. Given its disquieting record of persecuting local journalists and activists for daring to stray from the official line, any attempt to book Arundhati Roy for her article would confirm the government's determination to choke off dissenting voices, especially to prevent any independent information from coming out of this theatre of 'War'
Admiral R.H. Tahiliani (Former Navy Chief and Chairman Transparency International)
Amit Bhaduri (Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
Anoop Saraya (Professor, AIIMS)
Aruna Roy (Founder, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and National Campaign for people’s right to Information)
Arvind Kejriwal (RTI Activist, Magsaysay awardee)
Badri Raina (Former Professor, Delhi University)
C. Rammanohar Reddy (Editor, Economic and Political weekly)
Colin Gonsalves (Director, Human Rights Law Network)
Dr. Banwari Lal Sharma (Convenor, Azadi Bachao Andolan)
Dr. K.S. Subramaniam (I.P.S., Former DGP)
Dr. P.M. Bhargava (Biotechnologist, Founder Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad)
Dr. Mira Shiva (Initiative for Health Equity and Society)
Dr. Walter Fernandes (Director, North East Social Research Centre)
Dunu Roy (Director, Hazard Centre)
E.A.S. Sarma (Former Secy. Government of India)
Harsh Mander (Director, Aman Biradiri)
Himanshu Thakkar (Director, Centre for Water Policy)
Jagdeep Chhokar (Former Prof. IIM Ahmedabad)
Javed Naqvi (Journalist)
Jean Dreze (Economist and Social Scientist)
Kamini Jaiswal (Lawyer)
Karan Thapar (Journalist)
Madhu Bhaduri (IFS, Former Ambassador of India to several countries)
Manoj Mitta (Journalist)
Nikhil De (MKSS and NCPRI)
Prashant Bhushan (Lawyer)
Ravi Chopra (Director, People’s Science Institute, Dehradun)
S.R. Hiremath (Samaj Parivatan Samuday)
Shabnam Hashmi (Convenor, ANHAD)
Shankar Singh (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan)
Teesta Setalvad (Citizens for Justice and Peace)
Trilochan Shastri (Professor, IIM Bangalore, and Convenor, Association for Democratic Reforms)
Vandana Shiva (Director Navdanya and Research Foundation for Science and Technology)
Vikram Lal (Director, Common Cause)
Yogendra Yadav (Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies)
Lucknow: Are cities in Uttar Pradesh on Maoists’ hit-list? This question has been worrying the UP Police of late.
Sources say central and state intelligence organisations have come across new information on this count which confirms that Maoists are developing their bases in big cities of the state. Certain incidents in the recent past point to this possibility.
Since the information is still being developed by police and intelligence agencies, no one is willing to go on record. But sources say the interrogation of Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy had revealed that Maoist groups were establishing bases in prominent UP cities including, Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi and Meerut.
The discovery of an explosive planted on board the Sampark Kranti Express in Mahoba in UP’s Bundelkhand region has added to the worries of the UP Police.
“The bomb was planted rather conspicuously as if someone wanted to demonstrate their firepower and intentions,” additional DG (railways) AK Jain said.
Police were looking into the Maoist connection as several Bundelkhand districts bordering Madhya Pradesh are known for Maoist activity, he said.
Another incident which sent out a danger signal was the Maoists’ plan to attack the train carrying Ghandy through UP. A week ago, the Delhi Police were taking him for a court appearance in West Bengal when the UP Police got the alert. Ghandy was taken to Delhi by air.
A senior police officer involved in the exercise said, “It is for the first time that Maoists have shifted their activities from rural to urban areas.”
Ghandy’s interrogation, sources say, revealed that Maoists had started “operation urban base” to organise their activities in cities by recruiting poor and unemployed youth to fight for their “cause”. Kanpur-based CPI (M) politburo member Balraj alias BR was co-ordinating this operation. He has been arrested, but police are still hunting for his two aides.
Ghandy also reportedly told Delhi Police that with help from BR, he had formed a sub-committee on mass organisation to shift Maoist bases to strategically crucial urban centres and organise local support and recruits in these places. They had also formed a state committee for women to ensure their participation in large numbers.
The UP Police is redrawing its map of “red zones” which indicate areas with Maoist trouble. Some of its top officials have also been in touch with Bihar and Madhya Pradesh Police to draw up a joint strategy to tackle the menace.
Posted on Apr 21, 2010 at 12:21
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said that those "challenging the authority of the Indian state" will not be given any quarter but he admitted that Maoist insurgency is the result of poor development.
"No quarter can be given to those who have taken upon themselves to challenge the authority of the Indian state and the fabric of our democratic polity," he said, inaugurating the Civil Services Day in New Delhi.
Reiterating that Maoist insurgency in mineral-rich central India was the "gravest internal security threat", Singh said: "We cannot overlook the fact that many areas in which such extremism flourishes are under-developed and many of the people, mainly poor tribals, who live in these areas have not shared equitably the fruits of development.
"It is incumbent upon us to ensure that no area of our country is denied the benefits of our ambitious developmental programmes," he said.
Referring to the April 6 massacre of 76 security personnel by Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district, Singh said: "I have mentioned time and again that leftwing extremism is, perhaps, the gravest internal security threat that we face. Recent events have underscored the need for urgent and considered action to root out this problem."
Raipur, April 21, 2010
First Published: 11:20 IST(21/4/2010)
Last Updated: 11:22 IST(21/4/2010)
Squads of the Chhattisgarh police sneaked into forests in Dantewada district early Wednesday to track Maoist guerrillas who opened fire near five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camps the night before, exactly two weeks after the massive attack in the area that killed 76 security personnel.
"The cops sneaked into Maoist dominated forested pockets in Dantewada in the wee hours to track down the insurgents who opened fire near five CRPF camps and then vanished into thick forests Tuesday night," Inspector General of Police T J Longkumer told IANS over phone.
Armed Maoists backed by Sangham (village-level cadres) members fired at areas near five CRPF camps Tuesday night, which triggered panic among troopers, who then retaliated. No injuries or casualties were reported in the incident.
"It seems the firing was intended to provoke the troopers," Dantewada's Superintendent of Police Amresh Mishra told IANS.
He said the firing was reported at CRPF camps in Chintagufa, Errabore, Pollampalli, Bhejji and Kankerlanka - all in Dantewada district, about 500 km from state capital Raipur.
Two Tuesdays ago, on April 6, Maoists had killed 75 CRPF troopers and a Chhattisgarh policeman in Dantewada in the worst ever attack on security forces since the movement began over four decades ago.
Chhattisgarh's Bastar region, made up of Dantewada, Bastar, Bijapur, Narayanpur and Kanker districts, is spread over 40,000 sq km and has been a Maoist stronghold since the late 1980s.
By Kranti Kumara
21 April 2010
The Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which has been on the warpath against a spreading Maoist insurgency, has been thrown into a serious crisis following a deadly ambush by Maoist guerrillas on April 6 that killed 76 security personnel in the forests of the eastern state of Chhattisgarh.
The Dantewada ambush is far and away the largest reversal Indian state forces have ever suffered at the hands of the Maoists—who are also known as Naxalites—in the four decades that they have been attempting to develop a “protracted people’s war” based on the peasantry and, more recently, India’s oppressed tribal population.
The UPA considers the Maoist insurgency, which in recent years has spread to more than 200 of the country’s 626 administrative districts, the country’s “greatest internal security threat,” because it stands in the way of the Congress Party’s goal of seizing tribal lands on behalf of domestic and international capital. Soon after winning reelection to a second term in May 2009, the UPA government proclaimed suppression of the Maoist-led tribal insurgency a top priority.
Sections of the tribal population in India’s eastern jungle highlands have turned towards the Maoists out of desperation after enduring decades of repression, displacement and massacres at the hands of the Indian state.
Of the 76 dead, 75 belonged to the Indian government’s paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and one belonged to the Chhattisgarh state police.
Two days after the ambush, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the chief political architect of the government’s military offensive against the Maoists, offered his resignation in writing. Unsurprisingly, this was promptly rejected by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and by Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, whom Singh acknowledges as the true head of the UPA government.
The government’s offensive against the Maoists, which has been dubbed Operation Green Hunt, stretches across six states located mainly in the east and involves tens of thousands of heavily-armed central government paramilitaries and the police forces of the six states.
The 80,000 or more paramilitaries that are mounting Operation Green Hunt are receiving logistical support and training in jungle warfare from the Indian army.
There is no doubt that the success of the Dantewada ambush has seriously dented Chidambaram’s swagger and prestige. From the inception of Operation Green Hunt, the Indian Home Ministry has overseen its planning, with Chidambaram playing a major role in both coordinating and publicly promoting the Indian government’s first-ever, nationally-directed, anti-Maoist counterinsurgency offensive.
The Times of India observed that Chidambaram’s very public role in promoting Operation Green Hunt had amplified the political fallout from the ambush. “[The] repercussions,” wrote the Times, “are far more serious than they would have ordinarily been because of the blunt-speak Chidambaram engaged in to goad states to forge a common front” against the Maoists.
The government was gratified, therefore, that in the wake of the Dantewada ambush the major opposition parties—from the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) through the Left Front—demonstrably rallied round the government and declared their continuing support for the counterinsurgency campaign.
The official opposition BJP generally refuses to cooperate with the UPA government, which it brays against for purportedly being soft on terrorism and coddling India’s impoverished Muslim minority. But in the immediate aftermath of the Dantewada ambush, the BJP rushed to Chidambaram’s defence, hailing him as the best man for taking on the Maoist insurgency.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPM], the dominant partner in the Left Front similarly proclaimed its support for Operation Green Hunt and Chidambaram. In the days after the ambush, senior CPM leaders, including party General Secretary Prakash Karat, Politburo member and parliamentarian Sitaram Yechury, and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddadeb Bhattacharjee repeatedly endorsed Manmohan Singh’s contention that the Maoist insurgency is the greatest internal threat facing India.
Not long ago the Stalinists were justifying their support for the UPA—the Left Front provided the governing coalition with its parliamentary majority for four years, ending in June 2008—on the grounds that it was the only way to prevent the “communal-fascist” BJP from returning to power. Now they join with the BJP in depicting the Maoist insurgency in veritable Bush “war on terror”-type terms, downplaying, if not outright dismissing, the misery and dispossession of the tribal peoples and the state violence to which they have been subjected.
Particularly noteworthy was Bhattacharjee’s endorsement of Chidambaram. In early April the Home Minister had publicly reprimanded the West Bengal Chief Minister for the growing political violence in West Bengal, thereby signalling that the UPA government might in the future invoke article 356 of the constitution, which empowers it to place a state in which law and order have broken down under “president’s” or central government rule. The Trinamool Congress, a Bengali regionalist party and the second largest member of the Congress-led UPA coalition, has been campaigning for the imposition of president’s rule in West Bengal since last May’s national election in which it dealt the CPM and Left Front a humiliating electoral defeat.
Still smarting from Chidambaram’s rebuke, Bhattacharjee declared in response to the Dantewada ambush, “This is not a time to blame anyone. It is the time to work together. We must work collectively.”
“Work collectively” in waging war, that is. In an attempt to rally public support for Operation Green Hunt, Chidambaram had previously spoken about the government’s willingness to enter into “peace talks” with the Communist Party of India (Maoist.) Now the ambush is being cited by the political establishment as proof that there can be no talks with “terrorists.”
Indian security forces are notorious for their violations of human rights, including summary executions and torture, but Chidambaram seized on the ambush to proclaim, “This shows the savage nature of the Maoists—the brutality and savagery they are capable of.“ Home Secretary G.K. Pillai, giving voice to the ruling elite’s thirst for revenge, vowed that the government would give “a fitting reply” to the Maoists.
The central government has announced that 6,000 more CRPF troops will be mobilized in support of Operation Green Hunt.
Meanwhile, the Hindu reports that the people of Mukram, a village of about 50 houses near the ambush site, have fled into the forest for fear of reprisals from CRPF personnel who accuse Mukram’s residents of having provided information to the Maoists that made the ambush possible. The April 12 Hinducited a villager as saying, “Everyone is terrified that the police will take revenge by attacking the village. They have already killed one person.”
The Dantewada ambush has revived discussion within the Indian elite about directly using the Indian armed forces to suppress the Maoist insurgents. Several members of the UPA government including Prime Minister Singh and the Home Minister Chidambaram have told the media “all options are open.”
Although many in the political establishment are pressing for broadening the military’s role in the counterinsurgency campaign, the army and air force chiefs have publicly expressed their opposition to such a course of action.
The recently promoted commander of the Indian Army General Vijay Singh said, “The Naxalite problem is a law and order problem, which is a state subject. It stems from certain issues on the ground, be it of governance, be it of administration, be it of socio-economic factors.”
Similarly the Air Force Chief commented, “The military–Air Force, Army and Navy–are not trained for limited lethality. The weapons that we have are meant for the enemy across the border. Therefore, I am not in favour of use of Air Force in situations like the Naxal problem.”
India’s military top brass fear being drawn into a low intensity war that would sap morale and undermine public support for the military. They also recognize that the militarization of the anti-Maoist campaign could well backfire, with atrocities and repression feeding antigovernment sentiment.
The Dantewada ambush is indicative of the relationship of the Indian bourgeoisie and its state to the tribal peoples. Government officials are viewed as outsiders. Villagers shun contact with them, let alone with armed security personnel.
That said, the Maoist insurgency offers no way forward for the working class and oppressed masses of India. The Naxalites are a politically retrograde nationalist-Stalinist movement that long ago rejected the struggle for the political independence and hegemony of the working class, that is for socialist consciousness. Instead they have made the development of rural-based guerrilla warfare the focus of all their activity.
Like the CPI and CPM to which its traces its origin and whose history it venerates, the CPI (Maoist) claims that the struggle for socialism is not yet on the historical agenda in India. It has combined armed struggle with the promotion of various caste, ethnic and tribal identities and opportunist maneuvers with parties of the bourgeois establishment. In West Bengal the Maoists have aligned themselves with the Trinamool Congress and assisted the efforts of this rightwing split-off from the Congress Party and frequent BJP ally to exploit the growing popular opposition to the West Bengal Left Front government.
In the immediate aftermath of the Dantewada ambush, the Maoists reiterated their call for peace talks with the government.
The recent Naxalite resurgence is attributable to the desperate conditions that prevail in much of rural India, on the one hand, and to the criminal policies being pursued by the Stalinist Left Front, on the other. For decades the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India have subordinated the working class to parliamentary maneuvers with the parties of the Indian elite, becoming in the process an integral part of the political establishment. In the states, such as West Bengal, where they form the government, they are unabashedly pursuing pro-investor policies.
It is because the working class has been prevented from advancing a socialist solution to the social crisis—mobilizing India’s toilers in a struggle to liquidate capitalist rule and thereby liquidating landlordism and casteism and completing the other unresolved problems of the democratic revolution—that the Maoists have temporarily been able to attract support from a section of India’s impoverished tribals.
MANILA - The communist-led New People's Army (NPA) in the Philippines, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, is not only active at home but also exporting abroad its expertise in guerrilla warfare to insurgencies in other Asian countries.
Some hardcore cadres, toughened by decades of fighting the security forces, have reportedly recently trained Maoist rebels in India and their presence is also being monitored in some
Southeast Asian nations, including Thailand, where a Muslim insurgency has destabilized the southernmost regions.
How operatives of the NPA, one of Asia's longest-running insurgent groups, have been able to travel abroad and train other insurgent groups has baffled intelligence and diplomatic officials in the Philippines. "They could have posed either as businessmen or students," says a senior Manila-based diplomat.
The NPA, which has gained notoriety for its brutal killings and terror tactics, is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which is chaired by Jose Maria Sison, who now lives in exile in the Netherlands. The rebel group was formed in 1969, a year after the CPP was launched, to wage a "protracted people's war" against the government.
Alarmed by persistent reports of the NPA‘s export of its expertise in guerrilla tactics, Manila's main spy agency, the National Intelligence Coordinating Authority (NICA), called Manila-based foreign diplomats to a meeting this month to warn them of the communist insurgency's still potent dangers, both at home and abroad.
In talks later with reporters, NICA director general Pedro Cabuay, a retired two-star army general, admitted that it was the first time his agency had received credible reports that the NPA was training communist rebels on foreign soil. The NICA works closely with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its Asian intelligence counterparts.
"We will find out how these NPA cadres were able to travel abroad," Cabuay said. The NICA was coordinating with the Indian intelligence agency to identify the Filipino communists reported to have trained Marxist rebels, particularly in the western Indian state of Gujarat, he said.
Police recently sustained heavy casualties following a recent clash with Maoist Naxalites, considered by New Delhi as the country's "greatest security threat". Some Naxalites captured by India's security forces reportedly confessed that NPA rebels from the Philippines had trained them in guerrilla tactics.
Inspired by the late Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, the Naxalites derive their name from the Indian town of Naxalbari, where their revolutionary cause started in the 1960s. As of January 2009, 10,000 to 20,000 Naxalites were active in 13 of India's 28 states fighting for communist rule in a conflict that has taken thousands of lives.
''It is not only in India that we have monitored Filipino communist cadres, but also in other Southeast Asian countries,'' said Cabuay. ''We sighted a few of them in Thailand."
"We could not yet say that they are training local insurgents in the region, but the sighting alone would probably mean something," he told reporters. "Maybe they are coordinating or perhaps they may go into something deeper later on."
Cabuay said that while Sison, 71, is living in exile, the CPP leader was mobilizing his NPA followers through the International League of People's Struggle (ILPS), an organization that Sison formed.
The ILPS, founded on May 25, 2001 in Zutphen, the Netherlands, seeks to promote democratic struggles and oppose exploitative policies of multinational companies, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. It currently has about 40 chapters across the world.
"Through the ILPS, the CPP leaders are linking up with their counterparts in other countries. They were successful in organizing the league, which is actually one way of exporting Philippine communism to other countries," Cabuay claimed.
Cold War roots
The CPP was outlawed during the martial law government of then-president Ferdinand Marcos in the early 1970s, but the restriction was lifted by his successor, Corazon Aquino, in the spirit of national reconciliation, in 1986.
Freed by Aquino after spending nine years imprisoned in solitary confinement, Sison led negotiators of the National Democratic Front, then the CPP's political arm, for peace talks with the government to end the drawn-out communist insurgency. The talks bogged down after the CPP insisted on a power-sharing scheme with the government, a demand that officials considered unconstitutional.
Sison, a former English professor at the state-run University of the Philippines and who once studied in Indonesia, later embarked on a speaking tour abroad denouncing the government's alleged human-rights abuses. In October 1986 in Bangkok he accepted the Southeast Asian Writers Award for a book of his poems.
While visiting the Netherlands in early 1987, on the military's recommendation, Aquino's government revoked Sison's passport and charged him with crimes under the anti-subversion laws of the Philippines.
Forced to seek political asylum in the Netherlands, Sison was believed to have ordered the NPA in the 1990s to purge its ranks of so-called deep-penetration agents planted by the government. Under the NPA's bloody "Oplan Zombies" operation, hundreds of suspected military spies were killed.
Meanwhile, the NPA's dreaded "Sparrow Unit", headed by Romulo Kintanar, liquidated dozens of politicians, judges, soldiers and policemen. While taking lunch at an upscale Japanese restaurant in the business district of Makati city he was gunned down by his former NPA comrades on a mission to arrest him in 2003. Kintanar, suspected then by NPA leaders to be a government spy, was the nephew of the then military intelligence chief, General Galileo Kintanar.
The military now claims that the NPA is a "spent force" and that with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union its derisively refers to Sison as the "only living communist in Europe".
From a high of 25,000 fighters at the height of Marcos' martial law regime in the 1970s, the NPA's armed strength has diminished to an estimated 5,000 - a figure that the rebel group strongly disputes as understated.
Officials attribute the supposed success of the counter-insurgency campaign to the government's socio-economic and political development programs aimed at addressing the root causes of the NPA's ideological insurgency, namely poverty, illiteracy and unemployment.
Many of the NPA's known leaders are now in jail and those who have been freed have often turned over a new leaf and joined the political mainstream. One of them, Satur Ocampo, a former business journalist, is even running for senator under the Nacionalista Party of the businessman billionaire and presidential aspirant, Manuel Villar.
With the recent reports of the NPA's overseas activities, the military says it aims to reduce the NPA to an "insignificant force" by June 30, partially as a tribute to its outgoing commander-in-chief, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose six-year term ends that day, and partially to assuage rising international concerns.
Officials say the NPA has resorted increasingly to banditry, extortion and other crimes to financially sustain its struggle. But the NPA's export of expertise to regional insurgent groups hints at an entrepreneurialism aimed at keeping its communist armed struggle in business.
Al Labita has worked as a journalist for over 30 years, including as a regional bureau chief and foreign editor for the Philippine News Agency. He has worked as a Manila correspondent for several major local publications and wire agencies in Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
NEW DELHI: Against the backdrop of a string of Maoist attacks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday pitched for urgent and considered action to root out the problem of Left-wing extremism and asserted that no quarter can be given to those challenging the authority of the Indian state.
Singling out Left-wing extremism as the gravest internal security threat faced by the nation, he said, "Recent events have underscored the need for urgent and considered action to root out this problem".
"No quarter can be given to those who have taken upon themselves to challenge the authority of the Indian state and the fabric of our democratic polity," he said, inaugurating the Civil Services Day function here.
The Prime Minister's remarks come in the wake of the worst-ever Maoist attack at Chitangufa in Chhattisgarh on April 6 in which 75 CRPF men and a policeman were killed.
The Naxalites had also opened fire on five separate CRPF camps in quick succession in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh last night.
Underscoring the fact that Left-wing extremism was flourishing in under-developed areas of the country, Singh asked the civil servants to ensure that no area of the country is denied the benefits of the government's developmental programmes.
"But we cannot overlook the fact that many areas in which such extremism flourishes are under-developed and many of the people, mainly poor tribals, who live in these areas have not shared equitably in the fruits of development.
"It is incumbent upon us to ensure that no area of our country is denied the benefits of our ambitious developmental programmes," the Prime Minister said.
He asked them to devise innovative ways and means to harness the tools of information technology and to involve the intended beneficiaries in implementation so that complaints of leakages, corruption and lack of transparency get addressed.
Singh said that inclusive growth was the centerpiece of the developmental agenda of the UPA and fast economic growth provided the government with the resources to address the problems of poverty, ignorance and disease.
"Rapid growth will have little meaning, however, unless social and economic inequalities, which still afflict our society, are not eliminated quickly and effectively," he said.
The Prime Minister said that despite the global economic slow down, India was able to post a respectable growth of 6.7 per cent in 2008-09.
"The growth rate for 2009-10 is now estimated at 7.2 per cent and the forecast for 2010-11 is 8.25 per cent," he said, adding the medium term target set by the government was to return the economy to an annual growth rate of 9 per cent.
Bijapur (Chhattisgarh), Apr 21 (ANI): Armed Maoists killed a postman in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur District suspecting him to be a supporter of their opponents.
The incident occurred at around 10: 30 a.m. on Tuesday when Vinay Kodium, who was also a local businessman, was running his establishment at a weekly market in Matwada village here.
Nearly 25-armed Maoist disguised as villagers, stormed the market and fired at Kodium.35-year-old Kodium was hurt on his back, chest and neck, and succumbed to his injuries on the spot.The market has been shut following the incident.
The paramilitary Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel, whose camp was located just around 200 meters away from the market, reached the spot immediately after the incident.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Monday described the Maoists as anti-poor and anti-development.He said the Maoists have targeted all instruments of development.”The Naxalites are anti-development and have targeted the very instruments of development - school buildings, roads, telephone towers etc. They know that development will mean the masses, especially poor tribals, wean them away from the grip of Naxalites,” Chidambaram said. “In 2009 alone, they have demolished 71 school buildings, 23 Panchayat Bhawans, two power plants, attacked 67 telephone exchanges or mobile towers were attacked, and demolished, 46 attacks on railway properties, 17 attacks on specific industrial establishments,” he added.
Defence Minister A K Antony on Friday said the South Asian region is emerging as the ‘focal point’ for all terrorist organisations.
Antony said the Central Government would take a final call on the use of armed forces against the Maoists after considering all aspects.
“Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has decided that the Home Ministry would be the nodal point on the Naxal problem,” said Antony.
The Maoist rebels have ignored calls from the Government to renounce violence and negotiate. Instead, they have stepped up their attacks in recent months, prompting the government to go after them in a concerted strike. (ANI)
AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTHA
|The Chhattisgarh government’s proposal to launch a development campaign in Bastar sparks a debate.|
Personnel of the security forces interact with members of Salwa Judum, a vigilante group raised to fight naxalites. A file photograph. A large number of villagers who suffered at the hands of this group are yet to be rehabilitated despite a government promise to his effect.
ONE week after the mass killing of paramilitary personnel in Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh, the State’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chief Minister, announced that his government proposed to implement a special infrastructure development plan worth Rs.2,000 crore in the Bastar region. He said the investment, which would be made over three years, would result in the construction of roads, bridges, schools and hospitals in the five districts of the region – Narayanpur, Kanker, Bastar, Bijapur and Dantewada, spread over 40,000 square kilometres.
This should come as no surprise in view of the “special economic initiatives” announced earlier for regions with Maoist activity. States such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and even relatively less-affected Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka have received special development aid for areas with Maoist presence, and this has been followed by proclamations about “intensive development programmes”.
In fact, even when the Union Home Ministry launched its offensive against the Maoists some six months ago, there was talk about special development initiatives. Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai stated then that the plan was to combine the paramilitary offensive with large-scale development measures in the form of providing schools, health services, police stations and roads. There were also instructions from the Centre that the State and local governments should ensure focussed implementation of schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and proper functioning of the public distribution system (PDS). The plan was to launch the development initiatives within 30 days of the security forces dominating a particular area.
However, social and human rights organisations and some serving and retired government officials say that many of these programmes are just grand proclamations. Even in places where some works are taken up, priorities are suspect because often they do not cater to the targeted tribal and poor populations. Instead, the schemes promote corporate interests, they say. In fact, the Chhattisgarh government has failed to fulfil the promise it made to the Supreme Court nearly three years ago about rehabilitating the victims of Salwa Judum (the so-called citizens’ militia raised to take on Maoists) atrocities. The government had indeed admitted that atrocities had been committed on the villagers and acceded to a list of demands pertaining to their rehabilitation. The State Home Department had also given an undertaking that rehabilitation steps would be taken. This has not been complied with to date.
The record of many other States is even worse. According to former Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police (DGP) V.K.B. Nair, much of the allocations for special development plans in areas influenced by Maoists in the State ends up being used for the “entertainment of senior officials of the administration and the security establishment”. Social activists in States such as Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh point to the diversion or non-utilisation of the special funds.
Talking to Frontline, Latehar-based social activist Bhukan pointed out that there were announcements about sanctioning of Rs.450 crore to Jharkhand under the Backward Districts Initiative (BDI) in 2009, but there was no clarity as to how the money had been spent. Bhukan added that surveys conducted by several organisations in different areas of Jharkhand had shown that the MGNREGS had not helped bring down Left extremist activity. The implementation of the programme remains hugely deficient in many parts of the State, essentially in terms of payment of wages.
In Chhattisgarh, development schemes such as the MGNREGS have not taken off well in regions with heavy Maoist presence, whereas they function relatively well elsewhere. Clearly, this shows that the intensive development plan has failed. A report on the status of the MGNREGS in Dantewada district was prepared by Jean Dreze, a prominent economist and right to food activist, and Dr Bela Bhatia, a social science researcher in the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi, in late 2008.
In the report, which was primarily based on a study conducted in Behramgarh block, Dreze says: “In this atmosphere (conflict zone), it is very difficult for development programmes and public services to thrive. To illustrate, the schooling system is in a shambles. Occupation of school buildings by security forces is common – we noticed several cases within a few kilometres of the block headquarters in Behramgarh. In response to this, many schools have been blown up by naxalites, to pre-empt their occupation…. The implementation of NREGA in Dantewada has been severely affected by this conflict situation. In areas under naxalite control, the programme is non-functional. Even in other areas, it is quite difficult to enforce the provisions of the Act. On the other hand, NREGA can also be seen as a positive opportunity to create a new rapport between the state and the people in these areas, based on constructive work.”
He expressed dismay over the fact that though the scheme had existed for three years, the villagers had not even heard of it. He noted that there was massive hoarding of job cards at the district level. This when the district was flush with funds for the scheme. Banks and post offices to pay the workers and necessary staff to run the programme were missing, he noticed.
Asha Shukla, formerly a journalist with Navbharat Times, who travelled extensively in all the five naxalite-dominated areas last year, told Frontline that the situation had not improved since 2008. While sustainable livelihood schemes such as the NREGS and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) were in a state of complete failure, the State government project of giving away bicycles to girls who had passed Class 8 was a success, she said. In the absence of roads, the cycles were immensely useful, she said. “In Narayanpur [another district with naxalite activity], school bhavans were marred and health services disrupted by the conflict. Even primary health centres at the block level were run by compounders and nurses, and there were no doctors. In some villages which are built along the highways, the State government has implemented the NREGA, but there is a massive delay in making the payments. The clause in the NREGA that payments should be made within 15 days is violated at regular intervals,” she said.
In all these districts, concretising of roads and electrification of villages are in full swing. However, critics say this kind of development will have hardly any impact on the tribal people as their main worries concern “jal, jungle and jameen” (water, forest resources and land). They feel that the development of roads is a disguised attempt to facilitate the entry of multinational companies with whom the State government has signed memorandums of understanding. (Tatas and Essar Steel have signed MoUs to mine bauxite and iron ore in the region.)
The most immediate need of the Adivasis here is proper implementation of the Forest Rights Act, of which there is no sign. Manish Kunjam of the Communist Party of India said, “There was a show of giving pattas initially when the Act was introduced, but even that is no more seen. While the Act requires the government to resettle the Adivasis on the lands that they had acquired till 2005, the district administration distributed pattas only to those who had been cultivating their lands before 1980. To really address the issues of the tribes here, one must be sensitive to their lifestyles without imposing the urban notion of development on them.”
Reena Kangale, the District Magistrate of Dantewada, however, said, “These are false charges. Construction of roads and electrification are a part of the Planning Commission scheme to develop naxalism-affected villages.” While she agreed that the Adivasis needed to make a sustainable living out of forest lands, she said that half of the initiatives were hampered by the inaccessibility to naxalite-dominated villages. “Only clearing the villages of naxalites can pave the way for development. Right now 108 villages in 23 panchayats of Dantewada are completely inaccessible,” she said.
At Parchanpal village in Bastar district, where people are deprived of basic amenities. The most important concerns of Bastar’s tribal people are water, forest resources, and land rights.
On the positive side, the District Magistrate noted that the State government had fixed a support price for tendu leaves. Collecting tendu leaves is the chief occupation of the tribal people here for a month. (Tendu patta cultivation in the region had seen thorough exploitation of the tribal people by local businessmen. The Maoists resisted this and got a strong foothold among the Adivasis as a result of this in the 1980s.)
Apparently, the government has managed to implement the PDS throughout the State, and the system seems to be working well even in the Bastar region, though not as efficiently as in other parts. Samir Garg, an adviser to the Supreme Court Commissioner and a right to food activist, told Frontline: “The State government has managed to do three things. First, they computerised the whole PDS in less than one year. Second, they are procuring rations locally and as a result they have double the amount of rations that they need for the PDS. They sell the rest to the Food Corporation of India. Third, and the most important, they have ousted all private contractors from the system and taken the whole system in their own hands and tightened points where corruption can take place.”
Apart from these, the State government sells rice at Rs.2 a kilo to below poverty line (BPL) families and at Re.1 a kilo to extremely poor families.
Vishwa Ranjan, the Director General of Police, said, “The Central Plan of ‘clear, hold and build’ is operative only in north-west Kanker and south-west Rajnandgaon [peripheries of naxalite territories], where large battalions of the police would control the periphery so that the naxalites retreat and then the state would develop the region in military presence.”
He added that it was too early to determine whether such an operation was fruitful as the forces were deployed in Kanker and Rajnandgaon only in January.
It is clear that the development initiative as conceptualised by the Union government is a different ball game when it is taken to the conflict zones. The focus of many of the initiatives also need to change – from building roads and electrifying villages to addressing the real issues of Adivasis.