Is India losing the war against Naxalism?

Naxalism is today stated to be the most serious threat to India’s national security. If the government reports are to be believed, it is widely prevalent over 83 districts across 9 states, the real numbers are assumed to be much higher. Before, we look into the prospect of Indian state losing its battle, we would have to see into the history to figure out the rise of the Naxalites as such a huge threat.

Naxalism as a movement was started in 1967, from the village Naxalbari in Darjeeling area in West Bengal. The movement was started as an armed uprising aimed to get the land back to the landless and also to overthrow the government and give power in the hands of the working class. The leaders who initially headed and formed the movement were young cadres who had broken away from CPI(M) over ideological issues related to forming of government in alliance with Bangla Congress.  The movement got its ideological base from the writings of Charu Majumdar, its first prominent leader, who was heavily influenced by Mao Zedong’s philosophy. His initial writings, now known as Historic Eight Documents attracted a lot of young blood from the cities into the movement.

Now, it’s very important to analyse the reason behind the huge support that the movement was able to garner from the villagers in its initial years, for no armed uprising can be successful if it’s not supported by a section of the local people The movement was centred in and around the backward- tribal areas of West Bengal, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. The tribals form around 8.5% of the total population and generally live in remote areas of the country. The presence of government in these areas is very less and thus, the government services and control in these areas are very weak. However, on the other hand, area-wise , this tribal belt is very rich in minerals. Thus, a lot of private and public companies have huge vested interest for mining in these areas. This has led to a battle between the poorest and most backward people and the biggest companies of our country. Before, the minerals were discovered in these areas, they were heavily under-developed and the amount of oppression of the lower class by the upper class was very high due to the weak law and order system present. However, soon after the discovery, the big companies started approaching the tribals or adivasis for land acquisition. The tribals with little knowledge of the system were cheated out of their lands by the companies which held sham rehabilitation policies. The reimbursements handed out to the tribals was nothing compared to the value of the mineral rich land acquired from them. It is estimated that more than a lakh tribals have been displaced in the name of development by the government and companies ever since mining has commenced in these areas. This behaviour of the government along with the huge ignorance of the areas before created a huge wave of discontentment among the tribals of these areas. Thus, they put faith in anti-government ways or naxalism for getting their due rights. Therefore, If we were to observe, the reasons behind the movement getting support was the failure of government machinery to prevent oppression of the lower classes by the higher class and also its failure to provide even the most basic of rights to the tribal people. It is said that when one system fails, a parallel system rises to take its place. In this case, it was naxalism.

Now, Naxalism towards the early stages was a movement which was driven totally by the communist ideology, heavily influenced by Maoism. It infact got huge support from Mao’s government in China so as to bring about a similar revolution in India. Soon after starting though, a lot of ideological differences started creeping in between the different leaders. So high was this ideological weakening of the movement, that it disintegrated into a lot myriad small-regional groups within five years of its formation. Slowly, the base of the movement started shifting from being driven by ideology to being driven by power and this race of power led to further splits within the movement. As of today, around 20 different groups are operating in different parts of the country. The naxals have reached and ideological dead-end and are today operating only in quest of power and this is what makes them more dangerous to the Indian democracy.  Thus, something that started off as a movement meant to reduce oppression and bring power in the hands of the working class so as to bring about equality is today itself reduced to nothing short of plain terrorism. Recently, a major newspaper reported links between the Naxals and Pakistan’s ISI, wherein, ISI was supplying high-end technological weaponry to naxals to aide them in their war. The question of why a movement which is aimed at improving the situation within the country is taking help from an external agency that promotes terrorism within the country would show you the level of ideological corruptness in the movement.

India is definitely facing one of the biggest internal-security crises since independence for if you were to consider just the magnitude of it: It is currently affecting more than 200 districts spread over 15 provinces and 9 states. No other insurgency in India ever affected more that 5-6 % of the population while this movement is affecting around 25-30% of the Indian population. Also, the fact that the Red Corridor or the most affected area is present mostly in the highly mineral-rich land adds another layer of concern. The naxals today are operating as goons in their areas and operate by collecting extortion money from people in their area. It is estimated that the exhortation economy is anywhere between 1000-1500 crore per year. Much of this is collected from the corporate and mining giants operating in the Naxal-affected areas. The naxals are even said to collect extortion money from the people who are doing development work in their areas. Thus, they have made the role of government in bringing about development in these states tougher. With all this money collected, the naxals today use their links with foreign terrorist organisations to equip themselves with state-of art weaponry, thus making it more difficult for the ill-equipped and not trained police force to deal with them. Not only this, the naxals influence due to the presence of weapons with them has increased so much that they are now indirectly supporting candidates from their areas and helping them in coming to power. These candidates then hinder the process aimed at eliminating the naxal presence from that area. This game of power poses a huge risk to the Indian state and if allowed to continue would ensure that India loses its battle to these forces.

Also, according to government reports there has been a huge rise in the naxal activity in the last 6 years. This is a clear indication of the growing threat that this movement is posing now. The government needs to act fast and smart to solve this menace. It needs to allocate more funds for development work in these areas and also ensure that those funds are properly utilised. For eg: in 2010 GoI’s budget for internal security was 22% of GDP whereas only 2.64% of GDP was spent of the social sector. Until basic rights are provided to the people in the backward areas, the government wouldn’t be able to stop youth from these areas from joining up with the naxals. Simultaneously, it needs to set up dialogue with the prominent leaders of the tribals, local people and the naxals and try to work up a solution. Use of just brutal force against its own people without fully understanding the reasons behind their support for the movement would only lead to their further alienation from the state. Also, the government needs to come down heavily on the group with links to external terrorist agencies to show that highly unpatriotic behaviour would not be accepted in the country and also it needs good counter-insurgency forces to ensure that it is not held hostage by the very frequent kidnappings that naxals use to free their counter-part.  Ideologically, the Maoists/Naxals have already reached a dead-end, now the government needs to get its act together and work towards development and eliminate poverty in these areas so as to deliver the final blows to the support that this movement generates.

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