The Union government’s decision to redraw the geographical expanse of the Red Corridor seems to be guided by strategic reasons. There is a feeling in the higher echelons of the government that a focused action-plan against the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) would effectively decimate the Maoists and considerably reduce their influence.
After assessing the affected districts for almost two years, the BJP-led government identified certain parameters and started the exercise of redrawing the area under the threat of LWE. The Centre now plans to remove around 20 of the 106 Maoist-affected districts that are part of the Red Corridor.
As reported in The Hindu, the government is in consultation with agencies assigned with the development of Maoist-affected areas and security experts, and has arrived at a conclusion that a defocussed approach to the problem has frittered away all the gains made in the past.
For instance, the gains of the security forces in Jharkhand and Odisha could not be sustained as the security forces found themselves enmeshed in the inconsistencies of policy-makers in Delhi.
In the past 10 years, the mandarins of North Block that housed the Home Ministry and the Finance Ministry never came on the same page with regard to what is perceived by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the “biggest threat” to the internal security of the country.
Despite the recent killing of 10 CRPF jawans near Aurangabad, on the Bihar-Jharkhand border, the government is convinced of having an upper hand in the battle against the LWE.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had told Firstpost in an interview that the recent surrenders and killing of Maoists in the encounter with the security forces indicated a shift in the situation.
But that is only one side of the story. It would be patently naïve to believe that the LWE can be fought in isolation. The most important aspect of this battle is the state police, which is thoroughly ill-equipped and ill-trained to take on the battle – which is no less ideologically-driven than that of the jihadists.
In most of the states where the CRPF’s elite Cobra jawans are deployed to tackle the menace, the state police have taken a backseat. In a recent encounter between the Cobra unit and the highly trained Maoists, the Bihar police personnel took to their heels while the CRPF jawans engaged the Maosis in a gun-battle. In West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Odisha, similar stories abound.
In fact, the most effective antidote to LWE came from Andhra Pradesh, where the state police constituted a special force – Greyhound – to combat the radical Left. The CRPF’s elite Cobra unit is a borrowed concept from Andhra Pradesh police, which effectively put down Maoists and forced their cadres to take shelter in Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand. Since the police forces of these state are poorly equipped, they chose discretion over valour as strategy and ignored the elephant in the room.
In today’s context, the real challenge for the Union government lies in taking along the state governments, headed by regional satraps like Mamata Banerjee, Navin Patnaik, Nitish Kumar and Chandrasekhar Rao.
Given the fact that the forces in Maoist-affected states are in an abject state of training, modernisation and reform, most of these state governments resist the withdrawal of the central forces. At the same time, notifying of new areas under the influence of LWE entitles any district to avail further financial assistance from the Centre.
As the CRPF seems to be overstretching itself, the reduction of the area under the Red Corridor would enable the security forces to continue with the combat strategy, while giving space for development agencies to initiate construction of highways and take up infrastructure projects in a manner to provide employment opportunities for the local youth. In Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the government is keen to consolidate its success by initiating a slew of projects.
But the crux of the issue is that the battle has to be fought on the local level, where the LWE ideology actually draws its recruitment from. Until the state governments take up police reforms and modernise their forces, steps like these would only be a cosmetic treatment of the disease, which runs the risk of turning more virulent than in the past.