For decades Indian strategists have underestimated the potential of the Maoists, while the Red Corridor kept growing. Recent Maoist onslaughts, are making the strategists press the panic button. IFTIKHAR GILANI reports.
An eerie silence coupled with a sense of disbelief wrapped the room, packed with India’s top strategists, diplomats and selected journalists, as Home Secretary G K Pillai unveiled the dangers of Maoist rebellion plaguing almost eight Indian states.
Soon after the freewheeling and a candid presentation at country’s top defence think-tank, the room was abuzz with murmurs. “…Is the problem really so serious? Where had we been all the years? We thought we had problems in Kashmir….but it is more serious…” Former governor and India’s decorated military officer for his part in creating Bangladesh, Lt. Gen. J F R Jacob jibed that Pakistan’s problems in its tribal areas pale into insignificance when compared to this Maoist predicament.
Pillai in his Powerpoint presentation warned of a “long bloody war” ahead to recover the so-called liberated zones. Quoting intelligence reports and Maoist documents, page after pages, country’s internal security officer said the rebels were working on a well thought out plan to slowly increase their influence and to overthrow the Indian state militarily by 2050. Currently the estimated budget of rebels was at a staggering Rs 1400 crore. The precision of operations as in Dantewada district in Chattisgarh where more than 70 paramilitary forces were mowed down suggests that they could be supported or guided by some ex-army officers.
“They (Maoists) are working under a plan. They have capacity to bring many sections of the Indian economy to its knees. But they wouldn’t do it. They are just building up their capacity for a final and lethal assault.” Pillai said. Reading from a document, he said they plan to encircle cities in the last phase and until then do not want to undertake a big operation to enrage the Indian government beyond a limit.
Home Secretary further went on to say, the operations to recover territory from Maoist control would take anything between seven to 10 years, revealing that paramilitary forces did liberate 4,000 square kilometres during 2009. But he candidly admitted that they (Maoists) have taken over territories in other regions. “The way I see it, in another two to three years, the tide will turn in India’s favour and it will probably take another seven to 10 years before we take complete control of civil administration,” he maintained.
Their foot soldiers are so indoctrinated that they sing Karl Marx or Vladimir Lenin’s doctrines like a canary. But have no idea even about India’s national leaders. Pillai also admitted that despite large scale operations, not even five percent of the armed cadres have been hit by the security forces. They are keeping their armed cadres in reserve for big offensives.
Officials here admit that violence engineered by communist militia, popularly here known as naxalites ranging from Nepal borders to southern Tamil Nadu state has surpassed Jammu and Kashmir and insurgency hit North-Eastern states.
An expert on naxalites, Col (rtd) R Hariharan believes that these groups now control 19 per cent of India ‘s forests over an area two-and-a-half times the size of Bangladesh. A study entitled “Unique Forests – A Comprehensive Look at How Forest Laws are Triggering Conflicts in India with a Focus on Naxalite Movement”, corroborates colonel’s argument. The study reveals that naxals are in control of over 7,000 villages.
Far away from media glare, the Maoists have been organising the poorest of the poor in India since 1967, a peasant rebellion first erupted in West Bengal’s Naxalbari village. Analysing their movement, Col Hariharan says, they thrive on existing anomalies of governance, political system and social disparities that are the weaknesses of Indian democratic system. “The present generation of naxalites are also cynical products of a civilization that has adopted coercive persuasion by any means as part of its life style,” believes Hariharan.
Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh recently stated that his government was concerned “as naxalites have emerged in the hilly areas of central India, where our mineral and hydel resources are located. The naxalite movement is gaining momentum and the Centre (the Union Government) is concerned.”
The rebel attacks became more lethal after the Communist Party of India (Maoist) came into existence on September 21, 2004, through the merger of the Maoist Communist Centre of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist–People’s War ). A statement issued by the CPI (Maoist) on October 14, 2004, said: “ We hereby declare that the two guerilla armies of the CPI (ML)[PW] and MCCI—the PGA (People’s Guerilla Army) and the PLGA—have been merged into the unified PLGA (Peoples’ Liberation Guerrilla Army). Hereafter, the most urgent task i.e. principal task of the party is to develop the unified PLGA into a full-fledged People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and transforming the existing Guerrilla Zones into Base Areas, thereby advancing wave upon wave towards completing the New Democratic Revolution.”
The statement further said that new alliance “will continue to expose and resist the expansionist designs of the Indian ruling classes along with their imperialist chieftains, particularly the US imperialists. It will more actively stand by the side of the Nepali people led by the CPN (Maoist), and vehemently oppose the Indian expansionists and US imperialists from intervening in Nepal with their military might. It will also continue to support the people’s war led by the Maoist parties in Peru, the Philippines, Turkey and elsewhere. It will continue to support all people’s struggles directed against imperialism and reaction. It will also support the working class movement and other people’s movements the world over. It will continue to stand by the side of the Iraqi and Afghan people in their mighty struggle against the US imperialist-led aggression and occupation:”
Former RAW chief B. Raman says, that communist rebels were underestimated over the years. “By their success in keeping their movement sustained and in spreading it to 13 States, they have shown that they mean business and have convinced themselves that they can succeed,” he says.
Dismayed at the lack of strategy, Raman maintains that “our newly-emerging Silicon Valleys, industrial centres and booming stock markets have become the opium of our ruling class, which is unable to comprehend that beyond the dazzling shine of an urban India awake, there are vast tracts of poverty, misery and economic and social injustice, which are the spawning grounds of a new breed of revolutionaries, inspired by the thoughts of Mao and Lin Biao.”
He believes that while India has been effectively countering militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, it finds itself clueless before the Red Terrorists. “These men just want their right to have two meals a day, to have a plot of land, which they can call their own and to have a job and for their liberation from the servitude under the feudal landlords and rural money-lenders,” says the former Intelligence sleuth.
The People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), a front ranking civil rights group in India, in its report has also traced the origin of left extremism to deep social disorders. The report said despite India heading to become a global economic power, inequality, exploitation, lack of freedom and democratic space was rampant in the hinterland.
The land, human dignity, wages, employment, repression, harassment, particularly encounters as well as absence of a redressal mechanism for grievances leads tribal, outcastes and other poor people to join leftist movements.
S. Subramaniam, a retired top police officer also traces the rise in extremist lift ideology to socio-economic problems in Indian villages. He has suggested a two pronged approach that included removing the basic socio-economic causes and a well-conceived highly professional plan to deal with the “criminality unleashed by the Naxals”.
He said the rural poor need to be saved from the tyranny of lower ranks of Police, Forest personnel and Excise staff. There is need to run special reorientation programmes to make these categories of public servants to treat rural poor as human beings, he added.