Centre for new war on Maoists,
Posted by Admin on September 24, 2009
Riding high on the recent arrest of senior Maoist leader Kopad Ghandy, the Manmohan Singh government is considering a major escalation of its war against Maoist insurgents across the country.
In an interaction with reporters accompanying the Prime Minister to the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, official sources said the Home Ministry’s proposal for the use of special forces, including air power, was being considered by the appropriate committees and no decision had been taken as yet. While a strong case had been made out for the greater use of force against the naxalites, the government was evaluating the downsides of such a strategy. “The question is whether we can calibrate the government’s use of violence,” the sources said.
“You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs… [But] if we end up killing many more tribals in the process, there will be problems.”
By way of illustration, the sources drew attention to the recent report by General Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of the United States forces in Afghanistan, which linked mounting civilian casualties in the war against the Taliban to the use of air power by the U.S. and its allies.
The sources criticised what they said was the media’s unwillingness to focus on the violence perpetrated by the Maoists. “Despite the fact that naxalites have been carrying out the worst atrocities, there is very little public outcry. When Kopad Ghandy is arrested, we see intellectuals are protecting him. But when tribals are killed by the Maoists, the intellectuals and NGOs [are silent.]”
Asked about the need for dialogue with the Maoists, the sources said this had been experimented with between 2004 and 2006. “Today, there are no offers from their side and I am not sure any purpose will be served either.”
The sources defended the Chhattisgarh government’s controversial Salwa Judum strategy of arming tribals to attack Maoist insurgents and their suspected sympathizers, a strategy that has led to the displacement of thousands of tribals and been questioned by the Supreme Court. “I think the Salwa Judum was a genuine people’s movement and the naxalites were frightened by it. But thanks to NGOs and other extraneous elements, it was undermined and completely destroyed.”
The Prime Minister will halt in Frankfurt for the night before proceeding to Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Delhi alters Maoist strategy – Anti-rebel operations first, development later
SANKARSHAN THAKUR. The Telegraph Report
Security personnel during an anti-Naxalite operation in Bengal
New Delhi, Sept. 23: The Centre has effected a key, and contentious, shift in its anti-Naxalite strategy, delinking development imperatives from armed crackdown which is now being flagged as a top priority.
“Police action and development do not go hand in hand, as if they were lovers,” a top source in the Union home ministry said today.
“Police action has to precede development because development just cannot happen in territory where the government can’t enter. We must first rid areas of armed Maoists, establish our authority and then, of course, it is our intention to implement development programmes.”
This marks a significant change in the Centre’s approach to dealing with Naxalism, which has hitherto been to achieve a calibrated mix of addressing socio-economic grievances and neutralising armed rebellion.
Admitting that this was a meditated change in tack after P. Chidambaram’s arrival as home ministry boss, a source said: “We are on the confrontation path with Left-wing extremists, they have spread to 2,000 of the 14,000 police station areas in the country. We have to regain territory from them and establish and assert our authority, roads and schools and hospitals and telephones will follow. We cannot have any development in areas that we do not hold, so first they have to be rid of the extremists bent on violence.”
Leading internal security think tanks, such as the Institute of Conflict Management headed by K.P.S. Gill, have long been lobbying the Centre to give precedence to the “war on Naxalites” and not “confuse it with development issues”.
Articulating views that are already with the home minister, Ajai Sahni, executive director of the institute, said: “Unless and until we have totally eliminated the disruptive dominance of Maoists over large parts, there is no point talking of development, they are the biggest stumbling block to development, they have to be removed first.”
Home ministry sources repeatedly quoted the June 12 document of the CPI (Maoist) to argue that the Naxalites were “bent on violence and mayhem against the state and the people” and, therefore, the government had to “squarely meet” the threat posed by them.
The June document flays the government’s preparations to counter Naxalites in their strongholds and says: “We have to once again prepare the people of the area to resist the marauders and mercenaries sent by Sonia-Manmohan-Chidambaram combine to subdue them, destroy their culture and loot the resources of the region for the benefit of a handful of exploiters. This time the fight will be more long-drawn and more bitter than the one against the British imperialist armies.”
The sources said the government was prepared to negotiate with the Maoists if they “abjured arms” but asserted that the June document was proof they had no such intention.
“At the moment, the red terror can only be tamed by the state asserting its authority,” a source said. “They are the aggressors, not the state of India, they are blowing up roads and hijacking trains, they are destroying public property, they are the ones who have undertaken to violently overthrow the state, we have to stop them. Our forces will be deployed to rollback these so called liberators.”
The sources offered no insight into the anti-Naxalite offensive — no modus, no timelines — but underlined that the Centre was “determined to go after elements that were ideologically committed to the politics of violence”.
The Centre’s new stern line comes in the midst of a surge in state-Naxalite confrontation across several states including Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar.
In a move that could indicate the home ministry is laying the ground for a major offensive, it is also employing a high-voltage PR offensive against Naxalites, placing ads in a slew of newspapers.
It may be no coincidence that over the last month, police have picked up two top Maoists leaders — Amit Bagchi in Ranchi and Khobad Ghandy in Delhi — taking the number of politburo members in custody to seven — the result, officials maintain, of better and more cross-linked intelligence inputs.
Asked whether these arrests were part of a broader drive to mop up not merely CPI (Maoist) members but also Naxalite sympathisers, a source said: “These (the people being arrested) are committed to the overthrow of the state, they are top leaders of a proscribed organisation, the law applies to them and it is being applied. If we find them in Chhattisgarh they will be picked up there, if they are in Delhi they will be picked up here, but we are going by the due process of law, we are not bumping them off. We are totally against fake encounters, they are condemnable, but if people wage war on the nation, they are in violation of the law of the land.”