Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Maoist Threat: Meeting the Challenge


“This effort is dedicated to all those countless souls that struggled in history and all those revolutionaries who today struggle to make history; so that such struggles, such blood, such sweat and these tears, may forever become unnecessary.”

This is how Saket Rajan opens the preface of his book “Making History” Volume 1.The book is being taught in the Mysore University. It is the same Karnataka that has killed “Comrade” Saket Rajan. This; is a testimony to the paradoxical situation the Maoist threat poses today. The Maoist threat needs to be assessed carefully; deft handling and judicious decisions have to be its hallmark if this nation has to emerge victorious against this threat.

The genesis of the Maoism (often quoted as Naxalism) can be traced back to Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. In July 1948, about 2,500 villages in the south were organised into 'communes' as part of a people’s movement which came to be known as Telangana Struggle. Simultaneously the famous Andhra Thesis for the first time demanded that 'Indian revolution' follow the Chinese path of protracted people's war. In June 1948, a leftist ideological document 'Andhra Letter' laid down a revolutionary strategy based on Mao Tsetung's New Democracy. Thus the first flame of Maoism was ignited. The Communist Party of India (CPI) was a torchbearer of the struggle in the initial years.

Fragmentation is a common feature in the communist parties all over the world. In India the first great fragmentation of the Indian communists occurred in 1964 when Communist Party of India (Marxist) was formed after a split in the undivided Communist Party of India. The CPM decided to participate in elections, postponing armed struggle over revolutionary policies to a day when revolutionary situation prevailed in the country.

In 1965-66 Communist leader Charu Majumdar wrote various articles based on Marx-Lenin-Mao thought, which later came to be known as 'Historic Eight Documents' and formed the basis of the Indian Maoist movement. In 1967 the CPM participated in polls and formed a coalition United Front government in West Bengal with Bangla Congress. This move lead to widespread discontentment in the party especially among the younger cadres, including the "visionary" Charu Majumdar. They accused the CPM of betraying the revolution.
The rebel cadres led by Charu Majumdar launched an uprising at Naxalbari in Darjeeling district of West Bengal after a tribal youth, who had a judicial order to plough his land, was attacked by "goons" of local landlords. Tribals retaliated and started forcefully capturing back their lands. The CPI (M)-led United Front government cracked down on the uprising and in 72 days of the "rebellion" a police sub-inspector and nine tribals were killed. The Congress government at the Centre supported the crackdown. The incident echoed throughout India and the concept of armed struggle by the people received a boost. This ideology soon assumed larger dimension and entire state units of CPI (M) in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir and some sections in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh joined the struggle. Thus a new era dawned on Indian social and political landscape one which came to be known as Maoism. 

When the movement first began in West Bengal in the late 1960, its theoreticians like Charu Majumdar advocated strikes on urban power centers. However, the police were able to detect and crush urban revolutionaries. The movement survived only by retreating into remote rural and forest areas where the police had no infrastructure. Separately, Maoist groups (like the People's War Group) in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh focused on championing the cause of tribals and the rural landless, staying away from urban areas. For the next few decades, Maoist groups controlled or had a significant presence in the jungle belt running from Bihar through Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Maharashtra into Andhra Pradesh. The Maoists soon emerged as a parallel power centre, one which challenged the government and the ideals it stood for.

In recent times however the Maoists have started stepping up the ante. The recent massacre of CRPF personals in Dantewada is a pointer in this regard. With the Maoists menace engulfing 200 out of the 600 districts in the country the government must take concrete steps to defeat this menace.

The Maoist threat has to be countered by a three pronged approach- using coercive power of the state to combat and defeat the guerilla war of the Maoists challenging the authority of the Indian Republic and the political system of parliamentary democracy, promoting ‘development’ to improve the living of the tribals and countering the basic idea of Maoism (or Naxalism) itself.

The vital step in the approach towards defeating the Maoists has to be the use of force. However the government has not been particularly successful in dealing with the Maoists in terms of guerilla warfare. In recent times the Maoists have actually been able to inflict large scale damages on security forces. In 2010 as soon as operation Green Hunt was announced by the Central Ministry the Maoists retaliated by killing a large number of security personals. The government had to ultimately halt the operations for the time being. Hence this calls for a new understanding towards combating this menace.

We must first understand the basic advantage of the Maoists.The Maoists have bases in the dense jungles especially in central India. These jungles not only provide them shelter but also act as shield which protects them from security personals. In many places the Maoists enjoy local support. This support stems either from loyalty or fear but these locals provide them the much needed strategic information including troop movements etc. To combat such guerilla forces air force or the army may not be a viable option. These views have been echoed by the reluctance of the Air Chief Marshal as well as the Army Chief. In this regard the following steps can be taken;-

1.      Establish another guerilla welfare school which deals in jungle welfare on the lines of the Vairengte Jungle Welfare School. This school must be located somewhere in Central India since the local conditions would actually suit the conditions of the Maoists infested areas. The course content of this school must be meticulously designed; apart from imparting the usual army training the soldiers must also be taught the various tribal languages and customs. Knowing the local dialect might provide to be a boon for the soldiers especially when they have to undergo a manhunt mission-one which will require local logistical support.

In hostile areas; especially the jungles, soldiers often yield to psychological pressures.This results in the outburst of crimes against the local tribals out of sheer desperation or cropping up of suicidal tendencies. To combat this psychological warfare the Gureilla School must have a team of psychologists each of whom would individually condition each and every soldier who is a part of the academy. This mental conditioning can be done on the lines of the Navy SEAL training of the US Navy. Such a pathbreaking step would go a long way in keeping the self morale of the soldiers intact even in the face of paramount hardships. The soldiers who graduate from this school must be put into the exclusive combat unit COBRAS one which specializes in dealing with the Maoists menace.

2.      Recent reports indicate that the Maoists have slowly and steadily built of contacts on the northern and the southern side. These will have disastrous implications if not checked.

Reports of the Maoists building contacts in Nepal and getting Chinese made small arms through the porous Indo-Nepal border have become a source of headache for the military top brass. On the other hand, there are other reports of a covert alliance of the ‘almost defunct’ Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Maoists of India. If this fructifies, then the scenario would be more menacing for the Indian authorities. The sagging LTTE may want to bolster their structure through a fresh base in South India, close to the Lankan landmass whereas the Maoists would seek to cash in on the ‘land warfare expertise’ of the LTTE. Also, the worldwide arms racket that the LTTE is very much aware of can be an option for the Maoists.

Thus it is very important that these borders are checked. The border security in the Indo-Nepal region must be strengthened. The crosswire barbering of the fence along the border must be further fortified. The frequency of check posts between two points must be increased. It is of utmost importance that the small arms do not enter the Indian market in a large scale. If these weapons fall into the hands of the Maoists then the Maoists will be able to scale the urban walls as well; since research shows that 90% warfare around the world is based on small arms.

On the southern side the border patrol along the coast must be increased. The Coast Guard must be further mechanized and more state of the art patrol boats and personals must be provided to the coast guard. Protecting the national waters must be a prime agenda for the government. The coast guard must collaborate with the local fishermen who can act as vigilantes on the sea front. Fishermen sea boats must be fitted with basic walkie talkies or networking equipments so that the fishermen can immediately report to the coast guard if they see any unusual or suspicious activity.

3.      Since the ground level efforts in combating the Maoists menace involve the district administration as well proper steps must be taken to equip the police as well. The beat constable must be given proper arms, since he/she is already equipped with the local conditions it is of paramount importance that any army/paramilitary action must be done in coordination with the local police.

Any police effort in the ground level is coordinated by the IPS officers posted in the district. To equip the IPS officers of the Maoist challenge a training module must be added to the course of the National Police Academy in Hyderabad. It can be on the lines of the urban warfare training module that has been started in the police academy. Similar training courses must be run in the state police academies.

4.      The army and the police must carry out aggressive recruitment rallies. This will help in bringing in personals who actually belong to the communities they have to work in. It will be a huge tactical advantage for the police and the armed forces. For the tribals it will mean a regular source of employment and a sense of security of being guarded by the people from their own community.

5.      The fifth and the most important measure that must be taken is conditioning and equipping the ground forces with the right kind of equipments .These include:-

·         Lightweight machine guns must be used; this will not hinder the pace of the security personals when they have to trek in jungle for a number of days.

·         Special vehicles in the lines of Humvee vehicles used by NATO forces in Afghanistan must be deployed in these regions. Such vehicles are not easily damages by landmines and hence can be crucial towards saving the lives of security personals. This becomes all the more important since a number of ambushes with security personals are carried out by the Maoists, by placing landmines on the way.

·         In the jungle killer diseases like malaria create havoc among the security personals. As such each security personal must be well equipped with vaccines and medicines apart from painkiller shots carried in a small first aid kit box which must be made mandatory.

Such measures if properly implemented will go a long way in containing the Maoists violence to a large extent.
The next important approach that must be taken while dealing the Maoists menace is the path of ‘development’. This must however be preceded by the question –what kind of development. It would be wrong to classify industrialization as development in the Indian context.
In 1991 India was on the verge of bankruptcy, it was then the Indian government embarked on an ambitious slate of economic reforms, opening up the country to foreign investment, ending public monopolies, and encouraging India's public firms to behave like real commercial ventures. Today, India's GDP is more than five times what it was in 1991. Its major cities are now home to an affluent professional and business class that travels in new swanky cars on freshly paved four-lane highways to jobs that couldn’t even be imagined some years ago. It has high class transportation in the form of Metro in Delhi. The Indian businessmen repeatedly make it to the top 10 of the world’s richest. Indian companies have acquired major stakes abroad sometimes even buying out companies which were leaders in their market. India is a firm leader in IT and ITES .Its BPO and outsourcing industry is booming. While economic crisis engulfed the world in mid 2008 India’s economic status was fairly stable.

However the bottom half of Indians have missed out on this economic extravaganza. Economic liberalization has not even nudged their lives. India is now one of the most economically stratified societies on the planet; its judicial system remains byzantine, its political institutions corrupt, its public education and health-care infrastructure anemic. The percentage of people going hungry in India hasn't changed in 20 years, according to this year's U.N. Millennium Development Goals report. The performance of India in achieving the MDG goals has been anything but disappointing. New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabed now boast gleaming glass-and-steel IT centers and huge engineering projects. But India's vast hinterland remains dirt poor -- nowhere more so than the mining region of India's eastern interior, the part of the country that produces the iron for the buildings and cars, the coal that keeps the lights on in faraway metropolises, and the exotic minerals that go into everything from wind turbines to electric cars to iPods. If we were to lay a map of today's Maoist insurgency over a map of the mining activity powering India's boom, the two would line up almost perfectly. And this is where the problem lies.

The era of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalisation that started in 1991 meant that the government signed deals with companies with complete disregard for environmental or social consequences. Tribals were wrongly displaced from their lands by misinterpreting the provisions of the Land Acquisition Acts. When there were confrontations between the contractors of the multinationals and the tribals the state machinery took the side of the contractors. The tribal market system was destroyed; forest rights on minor produce like tendu leaves were snatched away. The tribals began harboring against the government officials and such areas became the hunting grounds of the Maoists.

The present situation in the so called Maoists effected districts is the outcome of accumulated anger building over the years. It is a protest against the nature of development that is being envisaged as the future for the people of these regions.

Stereotype schemes like NREGA are not an answer to deal with such complex situations. The policy of one size fits all cannot be implemented in these areas. The tribal areas have special problems and schemes of development should be designed and tailor made to meet the special needs of the tribal communities and their way of life.

After independence India had special tribal developmental block and schemes that were targeted in these regions .Such schemes must be brought back, ones which target the development of the tribal people. Some major steps which must be taken in this regard are:-
1.      Whenever we talk of development the first and foremost issue that comes to one’s minds is education. The state of education in these districts is dismal.

·         To counter this, special programme must be launched in these districts in the lines of SSA. There must also be efforts to integrate the tribal culture in the curriculum of the course .This will not only help the students in connecting with their curriculum but also give them a source of satisfaction.
·         In the era of computers there is dearth of basic computer literacy among the tribal students. To combat this, the central institutes like CDAC must be encouraged to develop courses of basic computer use in the tribal languages like Gondi. The OLPC (One Laptop per Child) scheme can prove to be a great burden on the state exchequer. Instead India can follow a model of OLPC scheme where the ‘C’ stands for classroom. The laptops can come inbuilt with softwares in tribal languages. Such innovative steps will open new vistas for the tribal children.
·         Pertaining to the issue of education another major problem these areas face is the dearth of teachers. To combat this instead of parachuting non tribal teachers into the tribal regions, youths for teaching jobs can be selected from among the tribals itself. Selected youths must be put under a fast track course which will help them acquire the knowledge required to be a primary level schoolteacher. They can then go back to their native villages and teach the children in those areas. Such youths will contribute a lot towards the uplitment of the tribal communities.
·         Often it is seen that during ambushes army and the Maoists make schools their base camps. This is a practice which should be banned atleast by the government. As often taking shelter by one group results in the bombing of the school buildings by the other group. And when the ambush ends the children are left with no school buildings. Hence their future is pushed into the dark.

2.      The second major issue when we talk of development is employment. The tribal people do not envisage the kind of employment that the market has to offer. Hence alternate mediums must be opened for them:

·         For the tribal artisans a provision must be made to sell their produce to government designated outlets/agents under fair price scheme. Government must make provisions to buy the goods from the tribal villages itself under the prices that are mentioned beforehand. There must also be an effort for financial inclusion of the tribal people. This can be done by letting them open no frills account in banks in return of a smart card. Banks can appoint agents who can travel to the tribal villages with a mobile ATM. With the smart card available the tribals can deposit or withdraw amount on the spot using the mobile ATM. Care must be taken that the scripts in these mobile ATM’s are the ones that are used locally and not English or Hindi. Such schemes can be particularly successful in tribal areas which are at the periphery and are yet underdeveloped.
·         The tribal people must be given a chance to showcase their culture heritage and their works of art in national arenas. Such mediums include tribal crafts mela, tribal mahaotsavs etc. To guide the tribals in a proper manner the Ministry of Tribal Affairs must appoint coordinators preferable one male and one female. Efforts must be made to select the coordinators from the particular community that the coordinators have to represent, or they must be atleast well versed in that language.

·         The tribal people must be given complete rights over minor forest produce. Tribals have been living harmoniously with nature for the last 2000 years. In fact they are one of the oldest inhabitants of this nation. It makes no sense to displace tribals in the name of conservation. The tribals always have had a sustainable way of living. Hence no efforts must be made to disturb such a harmonious coexistence, Infact they must be encouraged to continue their relations and way of living since no one knows forests better than the tribals.

·         Instead of a factory based economy the tribals must be encouraged to take part in green economy. A number of tribals run off to faraway places like Delhi and Mumbai to work as construction workers and laborers. Instead they must be encouraged to pursue environmental projects like carbon credits. Nurturing and caring for the forests will actually help them earn revenue which will make their livelihood better. The joint forest management (JFM) scheme started in the early 1990’s can be linked with these programmes to bring further stability to the system. The youth can also be encouraged to take up job as guides in eco tourism and rural tourism which will not only showcase but also protect their local environment apart from providing them steady sources of income.

3.      The third major issue is the development of basic infrastructure like roads, schools, hospitals, installing tubewells etc. Very often such works are not completed due to a number of reasons. To combat this inactivity some innovative schemes can be taken.

·         The private sector must be incorporated as a part of the process by making them liable for compulsorily contributing to the development of basic infrastructure in the areas where they operate. Infact when new tenders are opened for various mining activities etc pre conditions must be attached to the effect of setting up basic infrastructure etc. Care must be taken that these constructions are not carried out by harming the environment but in harmony with the environment.

·         Tribal youths must be encouraged to take tenders of the development works in the region. The government must assist the youth in making decisions and must help them in coordinating the construction activities. Involvement of local youth will yield better results in terms of actual benefits obtained in the ground.

4.      The fourth aspect of development is awareness. The tribal people must be made aware of their rights and responsibilities. Very often these people become victims of the system .The government can take innovative steps in this regard:-

·         Massive awareness campaigns must be carried out about the tribal people rights and responsibilities through the medium of radio and vernacular literature. They must be made aware of pathbreaking legislations like Right to Information which can be used to improve their overall livelihood. Social workers must be enrolled to disseminate information. They can do it with the medium of songs, plays, puppet shows etc.

·         Justice delayed is justice denied. The tribal people have always been delayed and denied justice. To combat this special court called ‘Tribal Adalats’ can be set up in the lines of Lok Adalats. These courts can be moved to various areas. To each court judicial officers must be appointed. These courts can operate on the model of fast track courts. There can be provision for the tribal fighting his own case without the assistance of the lawyers. This particular aspect can be modeled on the lines of cases fought in the consumer forums. They can help settle disputes between a tribal and non tribal or between two tribals. Justice can be disposed of in a speedy manner in this way. 

·         A number of officials commit atrocities against the tribals. Such officials must be identified and their cases must be rapidly brought to justice. Wherever possible the cases must be fought in the tribal Adalats so that the tribals can actually achieve a sense of victory.’

·         In recent times unabated illegal mining has become a source of exploitation for the tribal people. Many powerful political leaders are often involved in these mining deals. To check this menace a proper moratorium must be established in concurrence with the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs must also be consulted.

5.      The fifth and the most important focal point of development is women. In any backward community the condition of women is even more deplorable. However researches have shown that women health and well being not only benefits the children but benefits the overall family. Hence it is of upmost importance that proper care is given to the wellbeing of women. Some steps which can be taken in this regard.

·         Conducting awareness programme about the health of mother and child. Distributing medicines among women. Educating the women about health nutrition and disease in tune with their daily diet. Such programmes should be carried out female governmental workers.

·         Establishing a health crop on the lines of ASHA programme. The health workers incorporated in this must belong to the local communities. Efforts must also be made to incorporate the traditional tribal healers who have adequate knowledge about the herbs and their medicinal uses and can also identify the diseases. Proper care must however be taken in differentiating the herbal doctors form the quacks/witchdoctors.
·         Bringing employment schemes specially targeting women in the tribal blocks.

If development is followed in this model rather than rapid industrialization then it will go a long way in solving some of the most long standing demands of the tribal people. It will also pull the rug of ‘issues’ from the feet of the Maoists. It will hit them on two fronts –first it will smash their efforts of recruiting new youth into their forces and secondly it will ideologically isolate the Maoists since their basic demand against “nature of development” will lose its sanctity.

The third and perhaps the most unique approach is combating the ideologue of Maoism itself .Today the Maoist ideology is not restricted to the poor tribals of Orissa or Chhattisgarh. Renowned people who are often in the national limelight have come out in open support of the Maoists often equating the on Maoists as one between the ‘Maoist terror’ and the ‘state terror’. 

This support (though visibly reduced) stems from the two sections of the society one in the highest echelons of national limelight and the other at the far end of the social ladder. First to counter the voices at the top the government should show a level of compassion and deep understanding. Most of the intellectuals in the higher echelons have their own view regarding the problem. The government must make provisions to include their views. The government while framing any tribal related policy must call these persons onboard. Their views must be listened to and accommodated. In this way the government will be able to bring over support to their side while working on the ground level.

Gramsci opines that the average Maoist is an intellectual too and not merely a tribal who cannot read or write. He calls them the new intellectual who no longer consists of eloquence but in active participation of practical life as constructor, organiser and permanent persuader and not merely a simple orator. These classes of intellectuals at the bottom have a very deft and clear understanding of the ground level. There is no doubt that the 60 years of development have not provided them anything substantiative.It is time India counters this ideologue by redefining the parameters of nationalism. As we move towards decentralization there has to be change in the fundamental characters of federalism Instead of asymmetric federalism the nation has to move towards symmetric federalism.

A major change in this regard is that we must refashion our administration of the tribal areas. A large number of young people who are well versed in tribal language, culture and way of life should be put in service in administrative positions in tribal areas. If necessary, changes must be made in the Constitution to accommodate this proposed Tribal Administrative Service (TAS) .Judiciary has to act to ensure speedy justice. The nature of development has to change. 

Root changes have to occur in democracy including provisions like recalling an elected representative midway in the lines of Sweden or changes in the ‘first past post wins’ system in elections. If such changes do take place it will make democracy truly inclusive and not based on a patron client relationship with the centre acting as a patron.

The last century was the struggle between the have and have not’s ones which have helped the cause of Maoism to a large extent. However the coming centuries will be the war between the skilled and the unskilled. Unless quick amendments are made this anger of lopsided development will spread to non tribals as well threatening the very existence of this nation.

Perhaps the words of a British socialist historian William Morris best capture the mood of the complex events that sometimes threaten the nation at its very core:
“…pondered how men fight and lose the battle, and the thing they fought for comes about inspite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name.”
These lines should serve as the epitaph while dealing with the Maoist menace and moving towards a stronger India tomorrow.

2 comments:

  1. good post! seemingly neutral, but by calling maoism a menace, ure taking it too far. maoism exists and will not cease to exist because the aforementioned measures to curb inequality are very difficult to implement, thanks to widespread corruption. earlier, we had one central unit of corruption and today, we have infinite ones, thanks to the economic reforms. the businessmen who are driving Audis and BMWs today are the ones who were driving Ambassadors in the eighties. it(econ-reforms) haven't done anything for the poor. the rich-poor divide is exponentially increasing. maoism as an ideology wouldn't have gained widespread popularity, had the government even thought of such measures. even if they do, it doesn't go anywhere beyond the table of the conference halls. maoists are the only hope for the poor and the downtrodden. by supressing them, we're attempting a great disservice to the poor masses and in the process, to humanity!

    ReplyDelete
  2. dats why its a three pronged strategy and yet for the sake of the unity of the nation this ha sto be curbed

    but yes the gaps have to be reached out or else in the end we will all falter and yes like everything else corruption too has a major role to play in this .I hope we realise that..!

    ReplyDelete