NEWS ANALYSIS PM’s statement that seven States are naxal-affected is at variance with Home Ministry’s figure

How many States are affected by left-wing extremism? The answer could vary, if one is to go by official statements made at different times.

Addressing the annual conference of the DGPs/IGPs in Delhi on Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said seven States were affected. He spoke about the “ability of left-wing extremists in increasing their numbers and enhancing their military potential and entrenching themselves in some areas of the seven affected States… is and should be a cause of worry.”

While it is not immediately known what parameters the PMO considered to arrive at the figure, the Naxal Management Division page on the Home Ministry’s website (http://bit.ly/PVMbf4) puts the number at nine. To be precise, it talks about 106 most-affected districts in nine States being given special attention in planning, implementation and monitoring of various schemes to counter the left-wing extremism. Furthermore, the Home Ministry’s annual report for 2011-2012 (page 30) maintains that nine States are witnessing violence.

However, as recently as on August 29, 2012, Minister of State for Home Jitendra Singh told the Rajya Sabha that 84 districts in 12 States were affected by Maoist violence, while Maoist front organisations was active over-ground in 119 districts (in 20 States). How do these figures vary? Is the Centre correctly assessing the field situation in different States is the question left unanswered.

The classification of areas or districts or States affected by Maoist activity is very crucial as it forms the basis for counter-insurgency strategies and tactics. Maoist ideologues scale up or scale down the revolutionary activity, depending on the field conditions, thus making it too complex for the States to respond quickly. For example, if the revolutionary movement is in a strategic offensive stage in the Bastar forests of Chhattisgarh, it could be in a strategic equilibrium stage in Bihar and a strategic defensive stage in Delhi, Tamil Nadu or Kerala.

Deployment of the Central forces or initiation of schemes for accelerated development will largely depend on the correct assessment of the stage of the revolutionary movement. This is where security planners could go wrong in finalising the strategies and tactics, if they are to depend on a faulty assessment of the field situation.

What are the parameters for classifying a district or a State as Maoist-affected?

Districts are classified into two categories — “affected” and “under left-wing extremism influence.” The crucial parameter for classifying a district as “affected” is violent activities by Maoist outfits. If over-ground activity of front organisations is witnessed, that district is put in the category of “under left-wing extremism influence,” Mr. Jitendra Singh told the Rajya Sabha in answer to an unstarred question (no. 1943) on August 29.

He also gave some statistics. There were 84 districts (in 12 States) which witnessed Maoist violence. Of these, 50 districts saw “moderate to high levels of violence.” The number of districts under the influence of left-wing extremism was put at 119 (in 20 States). In effect, the Centre accepted that Maoist activity had spread to 203 out of the 659 districts.

Interestingly, seven districts of Delhi — central Delhi, New Delhi, south Delhi, north-west Delhi, south-west Delhi, north and north-east Delhi — were “under LWE influence.” In Tamil Nadu, Dharmapuri, Chennai, Krishnagiri, Madurai, Namakkul, Salem, Vellore districts figure on this list.

Before this parameter was used, the Centre used to take into account the number of police stations affected by violence rather than districts.

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