Subject: Thugs, robbers and Naxals
By Colonel Anil Athale
April 12, 2010
The death of over 73 policemen in a single incident near Dantewada in Chhatisgarh on April 6 has brought out in stark nakedness all that is wrong with our concept of national security management.
Images of the deadliest Maoist attack
It is quite obvious that the CRPF policemen failed to take the minimum precautions that are necessary while moving in a hostile environment.
It speaks very poorly of the quality of leadership, training and motivation of the force. But with the kind of commitments that the CRPF is regularly subjected to, it is obviously a very tired force.
Also, the distinction between crowd and riot control and fighting a guerrilla war (as Naxalites are doing) is not well understood or ignored in turf battles between the various forces like the BSF, ITBP,CRPF, Assam Rifles, Rashtriya Rifles, various state reserve police and the Indian Army.
All these forces have been battling the kind of insurgency that the Naxals have launched. Unfortunately, there is not much co-ordination in learning process. Though the CIJW (Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare College) located at Wairangte in Mizoram, does carry out courses for all the forces, its impact is minimal on all except the army. I do not know if the CRPF had any policy of carrying out pre-induction training.
The biggest weakness is at the top in the Home Ministry. The guerrilla war launched is treated as a law and order or socio-political problem. The mention of the military dimension is regarded as not politically correct.
Babus handling these operations have no experience or first hand knowledge of either the terrain or the nuances of guerrilla war. It is interesting that this lack of professionalism is in contrast with what one finds even in Bollywood.
For instances, when a very professional actor like Nana Patekar decided to do a movie on Commandos, he actually underwent the gruelling 28 days course! As an outlandish idea, if inducted in the Home Ministry, he would actually do a better job than the lacklustre babus and even add a touch of glamour! But on a more serious note, the flaws in handling Naxalism originate in the lack of understanding of guerrilla war at the Home Ministry level.
An Army officer who is veteran of Kashmir or North East could well be deputed to the ministry to rectify this! But that would go against the firm conviction in the Babudom that they know everything.
The centre of Naxal induced violence lies in the richest mineral belt of India that is also the very heartland of the country. The denial of mineral resources could derail the plans of industrialisation. In addition, the violence here can cut off the North South and East West communications. This adds to seriousness with which the problem needs to be tackled.
The root of the problem lies in alienation of the Tribals on two counts-one due to the unfair Forest/Environmental/Wild life preservation legislation with respect to the forests, their natural habitat. These acts have created various classes of offences which directly interfere with Tribal’s way of life and livelihood.
Secondly, it is due to the glaring gap between the life style and living standards of the Tribals and plains men. Extreme sensitivity is required to tackle the issues involved. Rough and ready methods of using force may prove counterproductive in the long run.
The truth is that the Naxal revolutionaries, either of the People’s War variety form Andhra in South or the Maoists in the North are NOT there to solve the problems of Adivasis. They are there as the forests offer sanctuaries for training and rest.
The general neglect of the area, callous forest guards/police and power vacuum, made the task of the Naxals easy. Once having helped Adivasis through their ‘Robin Hood’ methods, they now intend to milk the Adivasi support for the ‘higher purpose’ of ushering the Marxist Revolution through out India (?).
But the billion dollar (yes billion dollar in light of the sums that Mdhu Koda of Jharkhand is alleged to have made) question is what is the source of funding for the Naxals? One wishes the breathless Breaking News Babes of Indian television ask this! Or the police could crack this riddle since one of the big leader Kabad Gandhi (no relation of the Mahatma or the other Gandhi’s) is in their custody.
One clue or speculation is that the countries like Japan and China which import huge quantities of iron ore from Bailadila mines could be the paymasters. It is significant that in the unrest and violence of last several years, the mining operations in Bailadila have never been affected. The Baliladila mine has one of the finest Iron ore in the world, at 66% Iron content.
Hamlet and the Naxals
Of late the state government has approached the Centre to stop the export of iron ore to other countries and wants to establish steel mills. Is the sudden spurt in Naxal violence related to this? The armchair leftists in cities have been crying foul over the Capitalist exploitation when these plans were made. Why were they silent when the same iron ore was being exported? One hopes the people of India will get the answer to these questions and that would uncover the Naxalites hidden motives as well as their source of funds.
Although the Naxlaites claim to be Maoists, it must be remembered that Mao himself had disowned them in 1970s and their senseless violence. More appropriately, the Naxals are Che Guevarists.
While Mao insisted on constructive programmes and winning over the people before starting an insurrection, Che Guevara believed that revolutionary situation can be created. His tactics were to attack the security forces in order to provoke reaction. Once the security forces overreact and cause suffering to innocents by high handed actions, people will be alienated and support the revolution. This appears to be the strategy of the Naxals and their recent brutal killings of policemen.
Thus there is a dilemma of sorts. Urgency demands action. The sensitivity to Tribal identity and lives merits caution and preparation. Normal and standard administrative structures that can support extension of govt rule have to be identified carefully.
If needed, a completely new model of administration could be evolved based on sensitivity, realism and continuity. A re-look at the erstwhile Indian Frontier Administrative Service-like organisation may be worthwhile in light of our experience of repeated administrative failure in these areas.
Rule of law must be in harmony with the Tribal practices and NOT thought out in the air conditioned offices in Delhi. Here the quality of administrator and law enforcer would matter a great deal. Tribals are warlike people and proud of being so. The history of Gonds and Santhals in resisting all manner of invaders should never be forgotten, nor their stand in support of late Pravinchandra Bhanjadeo.
What do the Naxals want?
In bringing the Tribals to modernity, care must be taken to be gradual. Transition should not be from no-clothes to three-piece-suit.
Do the Naxals seriously believe that ‘revolutionary conditions’ as described by their Guru, Guevara, really exist in India for their revolution to succeed? All this leads one to conclusion that essentially the Naxals are a gang of thugs and robbers much on the lines of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, who also put up a charade of ‘Tamil Pride’ to hide his criminal activities.
One hopes for the sake of our country that we are serious about tackling this menace. Else we will continue to sing ‘Aae Mere Watan Ke logo…..’ at public functions and shed crocodile tears at the death of our brave jawans!