For a political party which had promised us "zero tolerance" to terrorism in its election manifesto, the killings of as many as 25 CRPF jawans on Monday in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district must be considered a major failure in managing internal security by the BJP-led governments both in New Delhi and Raipur. As Firstpost has rightly pointed out, the Maoist-related violence has already killed 72 security personnel in 2017, highest in Chhattisgarh since 2011.
There are many angles from which the Maoist-menace in eastern and central India can be looked at. Administratively speaking, it reflects poorly on the part of the Modi government to undertake the much-needed police reforms in the country. We have a terrible paucity of officers to guide the jawans in our paramilitary forces. Our police are inadequately armed to take on the highly motivated insurgents. There is a perennial intelligence failure. The country has a multiplicity of agencies to deal with terrorism, but there is hardly any coordination among them. Each one of these points merits a separate treatment, which I intend to take up later in this forum.
But the most important problem in tackling the Maoist menace in the country is the lack of consensus among our political and intellectual elites on the very nature of the menace. One distinctly remembers how as prime minister, Manmohan Singh had displayed a distinct soft corner for the Maoists by saying that "Maoists are not terrorists" and that he would be happy to talk to them. And mind you, he had such a view of the Maoists despite openly admitting that "the Naxalites/Maoists pose the gravest threat to the internal security" of the country. Singh had cited factors such as underdevelopment, corruption, police atrocities and exploitation of vanvasis (forest dwellers) and the poor in contributing to the growing influence of Maoists. It seems the same mindset continues to prevail under the Modi regime.
As a good doctor cannot treat a patient without the proper diagnosis of the disease, no government can deal with Maoists if it is not sure whether the Maoists should be treated with empathy or force. Are they terrorists or the modern-day Robin Hoods for tribals?
Reportedly, the hapless CRPF jawans who were dastardly killed by the Maoists on Monday were on duty to clear roads for the tribals living in the region. Incidentally, Sukma has seen a lot of road construction in the last couple of years and the Maoists saw this developmental activity as an act by the enemy. In fact, the Maoists, while preaching to represent the poverty-stricken, destroy every activity that pertains to the development of these very poverty-stricken people. They kill the workers and officials engaged in the developmental projects in states like Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and, for that matter, in other states falling in what is called “the Red Corridor” (106 districts that spans across 10 states — Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh). They burn the newly created school buildings. They blow up railway tracks, bridges and inter-district state highways. They torch trucks and blast telecom towers. They behead policemen a la Taliban-style from time to time. Sometimes, they even hijack passenger trains. They also deliberately initiate communal riots between Hindus and Christians, as they did in tribal areas of Odisha once by killing a leading social activist Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, who had done exemplary work among vanvasis in the state. They have been responsible for many a caste riots in Bihar as well.
And yet, rarely you see our liberals and human rights activists saying a word against them in public forums. On the other hand, if some of them get killed in police encounters, one will see television discussions and myriads of op-eds in our newspapers condemning the police actions. None of these people will ever see their actions as terrorist activities.
Let us see whether the universally accepted definitions and understanding of terrorism apply to the Maoists or not. While it is true that "one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter" has often haunted the debate on terrorism for decades, let me cite those definitions that are accepted and used in the United Nations (UN), of which India is a leading member:
In a resolution (GA Res. 51/210 Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism), the United Nations says: 1. "Strongly condemns all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, wherever and by whomsoever committed. 2. Reiterates that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them."
UN Security Council Resolution 1566 refers to terrorism as "criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organisation to do or to abstain from doing any act".
On 17 March 2005, a UN panel described terrorism as any act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing any act".
The UN General Assembly Resolution 49/60 titled "Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism," adopted on 9 December 1994, contains a provision describing terrorism. It says: "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them."
Any honest and sincere readings of the above resolutions in the world body, which India has never opposed, make it amply clear that the Maoists are nothing but terrorists. In fact, one may quote a Special Secretary to the Union Home Ministry, AK Mitra: "Maoist problem is not a simple problem of law and order. This is a terrorist (emphasis added) and inter-state problem."
Admittedly, the usual factors of underdevelopment, corruption, police atrocities and exploitation of vanvasis and poor people do contribute to the growing influence of Maoists. But that is one part of the story. But there is the other part, which is similar to the case in Kashmir: people are supporting the so-called revolutionaries in the "Red Corridor" in eastern/central India not out of love and reverence but because of terror and fear.
Maoists and their leaders are flourishing since money, important for them to procure sophisticated weapons, is no longer a problem. Most Maoist leaders — incidentally, all of them belong to upper castes and are well-educated — have over the past decades acquired large properties in urban areas with the money that flows to them through extortion goes to thousands of crores annually. And those extorted are not only contractors, businessmen, doctors and engineers but also poor labourers and farmers, who are forced to part with a substantial portion of their earnings. They raise funds through extortion or by setting up parallel administrations to collect taxes in rural areas where local governments and the Indian State appear to be absent. This is not all. Smuggling of contrabands and wood along with poppy cultivation also enrich their coffers.
And what is worse, the Maoists have strengthened their links with the notorious terrorist groups outside the country, including the ISI of Pakistan. They had active collaborations when the LTTE was live and kicking in Sri Lanka. The security literature in the subcontinent is well-endowed with instances of how arms were secretly distributed amongst the members of small Communist groups as well as some of the Islamist groups in Bangladesh and how Maoists once had conspired to re-begin notorious activities of Naxalites in West Bengal. There have been hidden agreements between the Maoists and Al-Qaeda outfits in the South Asian region. It may be recalled that the Maoist groups in India had taken the initiative in forming the 2001 Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia, better known as CCOMPOSA, in some secret locations in the jungles of central India. Its members were Naxalite or Maoist outfits from Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
If all these acts do not make Maoists terrorists what else would? By all means, one should talk to them, but for the country's sake, let us first defeat them. The Maoists have waged a war against the country, a war which is not on behalf of the poor but for establishing a political system that has nothing to with our democracy and our democratic Constitution. We cannot allow them to win this war.
Updated Date: Apr 25, 2017 16:14 PM