The >string of audacious attacks on security forces, civilians and politicians carried out by Maoist rebels in recent times, the calling of a two-day ‘Bastar Mahabandh’, and the >abduction of villagers who were on their way to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public meeting in Dantewada, point to the current strategy and intent, as well as determination, of the CPI (Maoist) organisation. Despite suffering severe reverses in several States and failing in its efforts to spread the “revolutionary” movement to new territories, the rebels want to send the message across that they are still a force to reckon with. What is happening in the Bastar forests in Chhattisgarh remains the best example of the failure of counterinsurgency strategies adopted by successive governments. If the UPA government’s strategy was to rely heavily on the security forces, under its now infamous “clear, hold and build” model, the BJP government appears to be pursuing a pronounced strategy of development. The >first-ever visit by a Prime Minister to a Maoist stronghold, to inaugurate the mega steel plant at Dilmili village in Dantewada and the extended rail line between Rowghat and Jagdalpur, represents this shift from the deployment of ‘battalions’ to ‘development’.
Developmental activities invariably take time to have a visible and positive impact on socio-economic conditions. Counterinsurgency strategists and the political leadership must be equally sensitive to the political component of the Maoist movement, which has at its core many issues relating to the people. The Raman Singh-led government in Chhattisgarh is a stable one no doubt, but its ability to ensure ‘effective’ governance needs to be ensured: this is the critical component of any counterinsurgency strategy. The Centre should first formulate a counterinsurgency doctrine encompassing also the development and security-related components. Such a doctrine would provide a certain unity of approach among States and security agencies, irrespective of which political party is in power. Out of such a doctrine, area-specific strategies and tactics could be developed and implemented across States. Security agencies must stop using assassination as a tool in counterrevolutionary warfare. The fact that top Maoist leaders >Roopesh (with his wife) in Coimbatore , and >Ajith in Pune , were arrested, and not killed in the process, is notable. Prime Minister Modi’s advice to a child in Dantewada to learn from failures is even more apt for the political establishment and the security forces. If only they did so, the problem of Maoist extremism could have been tackled to a large extent by now.