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Sukma Maoist attack: Modi must ignore Leftist propaganda and show iron will to tackle Naxal terror

The administrations, both at the Centre and state, have come under a lot of flak following the Maoist ambush on CRPF's 75th battalion in Chattisgarh's Sukma district on Monday that left 26 jawans martyred and a nation outraged.

When it comes to left-wing violence, the template reaction to a tragedy of such magnitude has always been finding fault with the government for the bloodshed. This is not to say that the government has not been lax or complacent in its duties or to absolve the lack of professionalism in our security forces. Reports have emerged how the CRPF has been functioning without a chief for the last two months. There have also been reports, contested by the CRPF, that paramilitary jawans have deviated from their standard operating procedure when they came under attack in Burkapal.

Experts in the field such as Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain have long called for better inter-forces coordination in sharing intelligence and expertise by surmounting ego barriers. In the fight against Maoist insurgency, the CRPF is always at a disadvantage due to its lack of terrain knowledge. The maps that cops and paramilitary jawans use are outdated. The left-wing terrorists, who have a far better knowledge of the forest routes and superior local intelligence, can exploit these to create mayhem of the kind we have repeatedly experienced in Sukma.

In his piece for Swarajyamag, Hasnain, former GOC of India’s Srinagar based 15 Corps, writes:

"Unfortunately, in India, inter-force lesson learning is a rarity due to the king-sized egos of senior officers. I never hesitate to state that the BSF and sometimes the Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police have taught me lessons I could never learn elsewhere. It is the disdain for each other's effectiveness that acts as the obstacle towards learning, and it goes right up to the level of ministries."

However, to say that the CRPF got ambushed just because it was functioning without a chief is simplistic and misleading. Sure, there are procedural and institutional lacunae but the contention here is that we are losing the war against left-wing extremism due to lack of political will. This a party-agnostic condition cutting across all political divide. In this, the Narendra Modi government has been as guilty as the previous Manmohan Singh government. To tackle Maoist insurgency, the first step is to remove the mental cobwebs.

Wife of a CRPF martyr saluting her husband's body at his funeral in a village in Punjab. PTI

Wife of a CRPF martyr saluting her husband's body at his funeral in a village in Punjab. PTI

The government must admit that it is at war against some of its own citizens. Whether or not the State is responsible for this war is a moot question. The need of the hour is to recognise the threat. This is a simple, yet crucial, step because often in the past Indian State has suffered from a denial when it comes to acknowledging the threat of home-grown, left-wing extremism.

For any government, tackling threats posed by external sources is perhaps easier. The moral force in such a war lies firmly with the State. It is easier to justify neutralising of Pakistan-sponsored terror modules than it is to justify a surgical strike against Maoists because the latter carries a heavy moral burden. It is also galling for the government to admit that it has no writ over a large swathe of its own citizens.

It is this moral burden that Maoist sympathisers in India's intellectual establishment has exploited to the hilt. While the left-wing extremists, for decades, have made wanton, indiscriminate violence their calling card, kept some of India's poorest subjugated by violence, denied them fruits of socio-economic advancement and thrown a challenge at the state's writ, India's Left-leaning intelligentsia — a tightly-controlled, entrenched, elitist-clique with outsized influence over policymaking and narrative-building — have used as beating stick a moral opprobrium that a government "can't go to war against its own citizens."

For any government, this moral opprobrium is a red zone because governments in democracies function on popular sanction. A democratic state must not only be guided by a strict ethical code in its actions, it must also be seen to be ethical. Hence, the fight against left-wing extremism becomes difficult and assumes asymmetric proportions.

Jawans giving gun salute to martyred CRPF personnel in Patna. PTI

Jawans giving gun salute to martyred CRPF personnel in Patna. PTI

It hands Maoists a decisive advantage. While the terrorists may go on killing people, waging a war against the state using any tools at disposal, the State must respond with caution and keep in mind all rights violations in launching counter-insurgency operations. This is a self-defeating paradigm for any government and an unfair hand for security forces. Little wonder that the Indian State has been bleeding for decades while operating under this framework.

To begin with, this perverse paradigm must be challenged. It has been thrust upon the State by a left-liberal ecosystem that forms the first and the most important front of left-wing terror.

It is in the interest of these leftist doctrinaires embedded among India's academia, media and civil society to perpetuate a state of perennial tension within the confines of our border that may fuel civil war and create the perfect modus operandi for their actions. This elitist clique which has so far dominated all policy-making, has been successful in addressing the fault lines of our civil society and keeping the embers of insurgency burning that threatens India's sovereignty and national integrity.

It is here that the NDA government must deviate from earlier regimes and launch, if needed, a limited military operation against left-wing terror operatives. There is simply no other way to effectively counter the threat. So far, the NDA has shown a marked lack of political will to do so. As we have seen in Kashmir, the Modi government has been too mindful of criticisms of rights violations to launch effective counter-insurgency operations. It is almost to suggest that members of Indian security forces have lesser human rights than their Maoist or Kashmiri jihadist counterparts and have even lesser right to live.

In initiating a military operation against left-wing terrorists, the government must not be swayed by criticisms from the leftist propaganda machinery. The moral opprobrium that they bring to the table is a false one because these terrorists neither recognize the sovereignty of the Indian state, nor do they abide by any rules of warfare. Even if we argue that their ambush of security forces is a part of guerilla tactic, nothing exemplifies their moral depravity clearer than their subjugation of civilian population in some of India's poorest areas whom they have forcibly kept cut off from civilisation.

Daughter of a martyred CRPF jawan at his funeral in Dharamsala. PTI

Daughter of a martyred CRPF jawan at his funeral in Dharamsala. PTI

Violence against civilians in the hamlets along Red Corridor have increased in proportion with government's efforts to bring these places within development loop.

Maoist insurgency grew in the dark decades following Independence in the forgotten and marginalized areas of India. But while that was a reactionary movement against the State's failure to recognize own citizens and its apathy in co-opting them into the civilisational sphere, in recent years that has been replaced with a desperate attempt to keep these regions segregated from the rest of the country so that these terrorists may continue their rent-seeking. If they had been driven by ideology and a moral force in their movement earlier, that has now been replaced by naked greed and immorality.

The government knows this. Its own website on left-wing extremism mentions the crux of the problem.

"…Maoists do not want root causes like underdevelopment to be addressed in a meaningful manner since they resort to targeting school buildings, roads, railways, bridges, health infrastructure, communication facilities etc in a major way. They wish to keep the population in their areas of influence marginalised to perpetuate their outdated ideology. Consequently, the process of development has been set back by decades in many parts of the country under LWE influence."

No matter what the leftist propagandists say, the government need not suffer from a moral burden in carrying out a military operation against an adversary this depraved. The Modi government enjoys unprecedented political capital that was denied to most earlier regimes. It must now show political will.

Updated Date: Apr 27, 2017 11:06 AM

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