Monday, February 9, 2009

Naxal Violennce

The Naxalite Movement that sprang up in the guise of a peasant uprising from a village known as Naxalbari in the State of West Bengal in May 1967, has developed deep roots in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh for nearly 30 years from now, besides many areas in Orissa. With almost all development work being brought to a halt in the interiors of Dantewada, Bijapur and Narayanpur districts, the Naxalites have fairly succeeded in projecting inaccessible pockets of Bastar as their liberated areas. These are inaccessible to the extent that besides the Naxalites it is only the security forces that the rural folk encounter everyday as representatives of the Government.
The Naxalites have been making every attempt to isolate and attack the security forces by cutting their supply lines or creating an atmosphere of terror by killing innocent people who they allege to be police informers.
Recent Attacks
Recently, in an audacious attack and the most gruesome Naxal atrocity in Maharashtra, Naxals not only gunned down as many as 15 policemen, including a police sub-inspector, but also beheaded and dismembered their bodies smashing their faces beyond recognition. The incident took place in the jungle of Markegaon village in Dhanora tehsil of Gadchiroli district.
A short-range patrol of 14 policemen and one sub-inspector from Gyrapatti police armed outpost is learnt to have fought valiantly against more than 100 Naxala for 90 minutes before their ammunities dried up. The outlaws then chased the surviving policemen taking their own time in killing them one by one with medieval cruelty.
This is the second major Naxalite attack in the region in recent months. Four policemen, including a PSI, were killed during a routine patrol near Korepalli in the same district in October 2008.
In 2005, 14 police personnel were killed in two Naxalite blasts in Gadchiroli and neighbouring Gondia districts. That year as many as 25 policemen were killed in attacks against only three Naxalites.
Apart from Maharashtra, there are 15 other States which are hit by Naxal violence, including Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
The highest ranking Naxal leader in custody has rubbished claims made by the security agencies about the rebels, but acknowledged new challenges—a money crunch, tackling corruption among cadres, adapting to technology and reaching out to the middle class. There would be between 15,000 and 20,000 guerrillas in the Naxalite movement—with up to 40 per cent of them women.
The spiralling recent violent incidents indicate that the Naxalites are preparing to wage pitched battles against the State by roping in hundreds of militants and their supporters, even as they expand their base among tribals in numerous remote areas.
The Gameplan
Over the years, the Naxal gameplan has also changed significantly—it is no longer hit-and-run assault. It has not only become more violent but also more focused against Government. The naxalites are targetting not the State Police but also paramilitary force like CRPF and BSF. They are no longer content blowing up a Government vehicle by setting off a landmine, but are also launching concentrated attacks against Government institutions.
A report of the Union Home Ministry has stated that violence triggered by Naxalites was reported from more than 375 police stations in the country during 2006. Though activities of the CPI (Maoist) have largely been restricted to some districts in West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the report revealed that the outfit is trying to spread its wings to Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Uttarakhand. This has been made possible by the huge budget the CPI (Maoists).
The CPI (Maoist) has a budget of no less than Rs. 60 crore for carrying out its armed struggle during 2007-09. And of that, Rs. 42 crore is earmarked for arms, ammunition and explosives, Rs. 2 crore for intelligence gathering, an indicator of how Naxalites are prepared to pay an entrenched ring of informers. The remaining amount is allocated for transportation, computer training, propaganda and documentation. These revelation came from none else, but a top-rung Maoist leader, Misir Besra, who was arrested recently.
The Remedy
Things are not entirely out of control. For one, the Maoist threat is a geographically delimited one, confined largely to areas that are either hilly or forested from where it may occasionally break out. It is necessary to compile a detailed map of Naxalism, then draw up a plan for specific actions needed in these areas to counter it.
Breaking the present vicious circle of violence is primarily a political task. It will require local politicians to not just point to futility of armed conflict, but also offer the hope of a peaceful environment. We need to beef up not just police forces but also bureaucracies and panchayats, making sure they function for the purpose they are meant to.

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