Do we let the Naxals carry on with the pretension of serving the tribals or do we let the government play a role? The country needs to make up its mind. The Naxal menace has gone on for too long and the consequences have been heavy on the government exchequer, security forces and the tribals. It has to stop. The country cannot go on carrying a bleeding wound forever.
The Naxalite discourse has clearly moved beyond the basic causes of its growth and spread — continued neglect of tribals by the government, exploitation of tribals by outsiders and so on. These have been discussed and debated to death in all fora in the last four decades. The exercise have not left us with no fresh insight into the problem or any closer to the hint of a solution. It is no more about ideology even. We know for sure that the present day Naxals are not as committed to the Maoist-Leninist ideology as its original proponents were.
It is now about show of strength. The basic issues will continue to remain unaddressed till it is decided who calls the shots in the tribal regions. The Naxals have virtually shut the doors on any negotiation. It is difficult to gauge whether the social activists involved with the tribals and Naxals are acting as barriers or bridges in communication between the government and the Left wing ultras. The government has its weaknesses but it cannot be faulted for not trying hard enough. The ultras have aggressively spurned any attempt from the government to hold talks.
The Naxalites have been in a state of war with the country for a long time now. They would not let go of the areas they control. They would not even allow the government to operate normally in the forests and make amends for its mistakes. Under the circumstances, the only recourse open to the latter is to open war and wrest back control of these areas. No government can afford to have vast swathes of land outside its administrative control. It is accountable to the lives of the tribals too.
It’s not an easy war for the government forces out there. For the para-military forces unaccustomed to the hilly terrains covered with thick foliage it’s a blind war against an enemy which is thorough in battle techniques in these inhospitable pockets. The Naxalites are well-trained, well-armed and have the ability to mobilise reinforcement fast in case of battles. No wonder, the losses for the security forces in terms of manpower have been heavy. It is unfashionable among the Left-leaning Maoist backers to discuss the killing of security personnel.
Moreover, the Naxals have no moral worries about having innocent tribals as human shields around them. The Naxals are known to put women and children in a protective circle around them in case of an attack. They are also known to recruit minors and women as soldiers of the cause. If innocent people are killed in an operation by the para-military forces, the blame rests with the latter, not on the ultras for using women and children as cover. It’s clever ploy, a tactical move for which the forces have no answer.
This appears to be the case with 27-28 June encounter between the CRPF personnel and the Naxals in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh in which 20 suspected ultras were killed. The outcry over the deaths was expected. But it should not deter the Raman Singh government from going hard about the anti-Naxal operations. It is heartening that the chief minister’s efforts are backed staunchly by Home Minister P Chidambaram. At least for once a Congress-led government at the Centre and a BJP-led government in the state are on the same page.
It’s unfortunate that tribals should get killed, trapped between the Naxals and the security forces. It is none of their fault that they are in a circumstance like this. It is the fault of both of their supposed benefactors — the government and the Left ultras. But the government has to keep up the offensive to save more tribals being killed in the long run in the crossfire.
The Naxal problem has to end. If the country has to wage a war for, then so be it.