K. Srinivas Reddy
Of the three internal conflicts rocking India, the one involving Left Wing Extremism (LWE) tops the other two — witnessed in Kashmir and the North-Eastern region — in terms of the number of lives lost and the geographical spread.
The rapid spread of the LWE in central India and the ever increasing military capabilities of the members of the People's Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) — the fighting force of the CPI (Maoist) — have forced security analysts to recognise the need for reassessing the capabilities of the security forces drafted for counter-insurgency operations.
The state's counter-strategy has predominantly been militaristic, as evidenced by the heavy deployment of security personnel for the purpose. The causes of Maoist insurgency, which require to be tackled by galvanising civil administration, received only cursory attention.
This, in brief, is the central theme of the five articles presented in the book brought out by the Centre for Security Analysis, Chennai, as part of its research project related to internal conflicts and transnational consequences. The authors look at Maoist insurgency through different prisms, each examining the government's response, both at the Centre and in the States, from his or her own perspective.
Sudha Ramachandran, who discusses the Maoist conflict in Dandakaranya, comes up with an irrefutable observation that liberalisation of investment in the mining sector opened the floodgates for mineral extraction.
The unbridled enthusiasm of the State governments in getting multinational companies (MNCs) to mine the minerals, and the scant regard they showed for the rehabilitation and resettlement of the tribals affected by the mining activity combined to leave the field open for the Maoists to step in and take up the cause of the displaced tribals. And, with the state almost invariably choosing to adopt the ‘batallion' approach instead of addressing the livelihood issues that drive the tribals to see some relevance in the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology, it is inevitable that the problem gets further accentuated and more and more areas are drawn into the conflict zone.
Taking an overview of the state response to the Maoist challenge, P.V. Ramana shows how successive governments have mishandled crisis situations for want of a clear understanding of the issue in its varied dimensions. Compounding it are official polices that were inconsistent and based on a misreading the situation.
In his article on the security implications of the rise of naxalism, E.N. Rammohan draws a parallel between the Maoist insurgency and the Huk insurgency of the Philippines and shows how President Magsaysay tackled it by amending the tenancy laws. That effective implementation of land reforms strikes at the root of the problem is unexceptionable. However, Rammohan's proposition that security forces should be involved in enforcing land reforms is not only unimplementable but fraught with grave risks.
Sharyanya Nayak and Malini Subramanian (“The Tribal Way of Life: Can Security over Justice be the Response?”) capture the predicament of the tribals who are forced to migrate to alien lands or become fugitives in their own land. They argue that, instead of concentrating on mobilising the tribals against the Maoists, the state is resorting to the most dangerous strategy of uprooting the tribals with a view to cutting off the supply chain to the extremist elements. The despicable use of sexual violence as a counter-insurgency tool is also discussed by them.
In his article on the challenges faced by the paramilitary forces in fighting the Naxal insurgency, K.S. Sood highlights the peculiar situation in which the Central paramilitary forces (CPMF) find themselves. It is difficult not to agree with Sood's argument that the CPMF brass has been focussing on recruiting the personnel rather than on training and equipping them to quell the insurgency.
The paramilitary forces deployed for counter-insurgency operations have to contend against two negative factors. One, they are seen as aliens by the local population. And two, lack of support from the local police. If the success registered by Andhra Pradesh and Punjab on the insurgency front has any message to convey it is that the CPMF can only play a supplementary role, with the local police being involved actively in the operations. Unfortunately, going by the current round of conflict in the country, this appears to have been hardly grasped.
What emerges, in essence, is that there should be a proper mix of non-Kinetic (development-oriented) and Kinetic (military-oriented) operations for any counter-insurgency strategy to be effective. Above all, the strategists must not forget that it's not a war in the conventional sense, but one where the combatants are common stake-holders in the polity.