Playing politics with Naxalism won't do
Most of our friends in the media and in the think-tanks are doing injustice to Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde by asking him to carry the...
Most of our friends in the media and in the think-tanks are doing injustice to Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde by asking him to carry the cross for the government's failure to check the Naxalite menace. Targeting of Shinde offers a talking point, no more no less, and it lulls you to sleep till another Sukma attack takes place.
The problem has much to do with the way the UPA-I and II handled the Naxalite issue, and the way they tried to make political capital out of Left-wing extremism, particularly in Chhattisgarh, and to some extent in Andhra Pradesh. This is indeed a pity because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had identified the Naxalite problem as the most serious internal threat by 2006 itself, based on a study carried out by Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), and has since been voicing concern at every annual get-together of State police chiefs.
History will be unkind to him on this score. And to an extent with the first Home Minister of the UPA, Shivraj Patil, who had paid more attention to his wardrobe, and allowed the Star-Congressman of the day in Andhra Pradesh to dictate the policy. A All political parties, with the honourable exception of the Marxists, have used Left-wing extremism for vote politics. Even Mamata Banerjee could not resist the temptation of tapping into this source of rural power in her mission to dislodge the Marxists from the Writer's Building.
Andhra Pradesh has seen the pendulum swing between the extremes since 1978, in particular, and has gifted to the nation the Greyhounds to re-enact the KPS Gill's policy of eye-for-eye and limb-for-limb that had paid dividends in Punjab, though the Khalistani movement and the Naxalite movement have very little in common.
The policeman can deliver only when the political executive backs him to the hilt. Jalagam Vengala Rao is remembered to this day by policemen for the leadership he had provided. The first anti-Naxal campaign followed the model the British had followed in South-East Asia. It was characterised by ruthlessness, and recourse to concepts like re-grouping of tribal villages.
Jalagam did not allow political considerations to come in his way of what today can be described as a multi-pronged approach to Naxalite menace. His successors went through the motions of talks with the Naxalites but the talks were the perfect payoff for the help received during elections. What can anyone discuss with the Naxalites who have resolved to throw out the existing system? Whether the Maoists of today are a pale shadow of their peers is not relevant any longer. Nor whether the movement is debased as sections of security establishment claim or whether it has become a new exploiter of the tribals as some sections of political scientists aver.
The three schools may be right or wrong in their own way but are no substitute to the fact that Naxalite violence was allowed to become a political football in our country, true to our firm belief that if a matchbox or a soap could inspire poets, any stick is a good enough to beat the political rivals with. Chhattisgarh provides a perfect case study. A Sukma district, where the May 25 ambush claimed the life of Mahendra Karma, the founder of Salwa Judum, is a part of the "red corridor" that has seen policemen and political leaders fall an easy prey to Naxalite bullets. P Chidambaram, who succeeded Shivraj Patil after 26/11 as the Union Home Minister, had proposed to carry out counter-offensive in the entire Bastar region.
Congress heavyweights like Digvijay Singh and some members of the National Advisory Council (NAC) opposed it and Chidambaram dropped the plan. Likewise, these very Congressmen had gone to town decrying the Salwa Judum in order to settle scores with the Hindutva BJP. They did not realise that the CRPF airlifted from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh to Dantewada forests could never be a match to the home-grown force.
There were 'aberrations' with the Salwa Judum no doubt. Instead of putting in the correctives and moulding it as an effective counter to the Naxalites, they allowed themselves to be carried away by excessive political exuberance and preferred to throw the baby with the bath water. A Naxalites have fully exploited this political fault-line. For them, the Congress and the BJP are two sides of the same coin and deserve to be thrown out. It is known in Delhi and Raipur alike that the Maoists carry out their 'Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign' (TCOC) from April till the onset of monsoon sometime in July.
Congress leaders were not unaware of the fact that the Naxals bank on the thick forest cover. Apparently, they hoped the well-earned 'goodwill' will work to their advantage. Luck took a casual leave to their dismay, though it favoured Raman Singh Government's Vikas Yatra through the same area on May 7.A The Centre reacted to the tragedy in the way it does every time to a Maoists' strike. And it rushed more than 2,000 paramilitary personnel, including the Cobra anti-Maoist commandos. The brief to the force was to sanitise and take control of the attack area.
If force alone could bring peace, Kashmir and the North-east could have been islands of peace long years ago. These 'imports' often end up alienating the locals as I have noticed and reported first hand since the 1970s. Success comes in any operation if it is carried out with some commitment, imagination, and innovation and if politics is kept at bay.Unfortunately neither of these pre-requisites for success has been the hallmark of the government policy and campaign thus far. And if someone like me feels nostalgic about Jalagam Vengala Rao, we are justified clearly and unambiguously
PS: Will some reader tell me, who wrote the song - "Padana Prabhu" �a Ghantasala classic, which wakes me up every day? Also of another Ghantasala song � "Kavi kalamuku, silpi uliki, kala kuncheku.... sati leedoi potee leedoee".
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)