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Tackling Maoism

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A permanent solution lies in reversing the alienation of tribals

The Central Reserve Police Force lost 40 personnel in two Maoist attacks in the first half of 2017 in Sukma, the most severely Maoist-affected district of Chhattisgarh. Though the forces were jolted by these attacks, their spirit to fight back has not dampened. Rather, they continue to undertake challenging development work in these areas. This shows how the paradigm on tackling Maoism has changed over time. The government’s response has matured in terms of deliverance — from reactive it has become proactive, and from localised it has become holistic.

Proactive policing

Security forces are no longer reactive. When the Maoists decided to deepen their roots into Gariaband, the State government notified this division as a new district, which gave a fillip to development work. Many new police stations and security camps were set up to prevent any major Maoist attack. The cadre strength of the Maoists has consequently reduced. Similarly, a police action in Raigarh district eventually forced the Maoists to abandon their plan of expansion. The Ministry of Home Affairs, too, subsequently removed Raigarh from its Security Related Expenditure scheme.

When the Maoists decided to create a new zone in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, the target districts were immediately put on alert, so as not to allow them to gain ground. Security forces were redeployed to ensure better territorial command. As the Chhattisgarh police have experience in tackling Maoists in Bastar, they are now coordinating with the bordering States to strengthen intelligence and ground presence. Such coordinated proactive policing will dampen the Maoists’ plans.

 

The Maoist problem is not merely a law and order issue. A permanent solution lies in eliminating the root cause of the problem that led to the alienation of tribals in this area. The focus now is to build roads and install communication towers to increase administrative and political access of the tribals, and improve the reach of government schemes. The government has enhanced the support price of minor forest produce like imli (tamarind). More bank branches have been opened to ensure financial inclusion. All India Radio stations in the three southern districts of Bastar will now broadcast regional programmes to increase entertainment options. And a new rail service in Bastar is set to throw open a new market for wooden artefacts and bell metal.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said in the latest annual report report on ‘Children in Armed Conflict’ that the Maoists are providing combat training to children in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Despite the Maoists not wanting their children to study and get government jobs, remarkable work has been done in the field of school education and skill development. Earlier, the hostel of the Ramakrishna Mission in Narainpur was the only place where children could get quality education. Then, an educational hub and a livelihood centre in Dantewada district sprang up. Seeing its success, the government has now opened up livelihood centres, known as Livelihood Colleges, in all the districts. If the youth are constructively engaged by the government, the recruitment of youth by the Maoists will slowly stop.

Role of civil society

However, winning a psychological war against the Maoists remains an unfinished task. Though the government’s rehabilitation policies have helped the surrendered cadres turn their lives around, security personnel are still accused of being informers and are killed. To end this, civil society must join hands with the government in realising the villagers’ right to development. Loopholes in implementing government schemes must not be used as a tool to strengthen the hands of the Maoists. Indian democracy is strong enough to absorb even its adversaries if they abjure violence.

 

The last two major attacks call for some serious introspection on the tactics used by the forces and their fitness to prevent any future attacks. The two-pronged policy of direct action by the security forces combined with development is showing results — the government has already made a dent in most of the affected districts and is determined to check the expansion of Maoists. The paradigm of proactive policing and holistic development should ensure more such significant results in the future.

Rajinder Vij is an Indian Police Service officer in Chhattisgarh. The views expressed are personal

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 10:18:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/tackling-maoism/article22277353.ece

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