Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Red star over India

Red star over India
Ajit Doval
Apr 14, 2006
Source: Indian Express

Does Left Extremism really pose a threat to India’s security or is it something the media hyped up? After all, they do not question India’s territorial integrity and apparently are not working as proxies of powers hostile to India. They, at best, want a regime change, albeit through violence, which many others would also vote for. They raise issues of hunger and poverty. These and other nuances notwithstanding, the straight answer to the question is: Left Extremism poses a very real threat which has to be fought with total resolve. Any obfuscation would lead to increased costs and prolonged agony. Naxalites use violence to achieve their political objectives and target innocent lives and thus fully meet the definition of terrorism. Diluting India’s principled position that the “core issue” argument does not justify Terror would have serious implications. But let us examine why is it really a high potential threat.

First, they seek to bring about change through violence and annihilation of arbitrarily identified class enemies. In-built is destruction of all that free India stands for. If hypothetically, the “revolution” succeeds and the new dispensation becomes tyrannical, oppressive and corrupt, which with the exercise of absolute power it’s bound to, how does one get rid of it? Backed by the might of a totally politicised state apparatus, it would be unchangeable except through civil war or foreign intervention. Fortunately this is a remote threat.

Second, Naxalites feel no ideological compunction in aligning with and supporting forces adversarial to India’s security interests. In the name of supporting nationalist minorities, they support secessionists in Kashmir, insurgents in Northeast, LTTE in Sri Lanka and CPN (Maoist) in Nepal. Charu Majumdar, their role model, opposed India in the Bangladesh war. Support for the 1962 Chinese aggression is an old story. So much for their ideology of supporting people’s movements against oppressive regimes. Similarly, in the name of class war, in Bihar and Jharkhand, they indulge in the worst form of caste violence. They have a self-serving definition of “have nots” and exercise ruthless violence against the landless and tribals who do not support them. The massacre of Salwa Judum tribals illustrates this. Over 90 per cent of civilian victims of their violence are poor. Under the veneer of revolutionary ideology lies a ruthless ambition for absolute power.

Third, the “revolution” continues to gather strength, engulf new areas, militarise itself and make large areas of the country non-governable. Naxalites stun to submission the poor and the deprived and the state is unable to provide protection or even undertake schemes for their socio-economic uplift due to a vitiated security environment. Naxalites have a vested interest in perpetuating poverty to conserve and expand their constituency. Their area of dominance runs into thousands of sq km, one Punjab getting added to it every two years. This will erode India’s state power, retard its growth, prevent social and economic uplift of the poor and downtrodden and make the political process hostage to the politics of violence. This is the real danger.

Taking the trends of the last five years, we can build a model of the security scenario for the year 2010. Over 260 districts, nearly half of India, would be Naxal affected where the government’s writ hardly runs. If we add to this the insurgencies in the Northeast, militancy in J&K and the scourge of Islamic terrorism, India’s overall internal security landscape presents a frightening picture. The strength of left-wing armed cadres would soar from the existing 7,500 to over 16,000, with backup support of thousands of “revolutionary” militia. Their arsenal may be in the range of 12,000 to 15,000 sophisticated weapons. Jan adalats where spot justice is dispensed, extending to beheadings, may increase from the present three per week to one a day. Collection of taxes estimated to be in the range of Rs 17 crore per month may soar to over Rs 40 crore. This money power in economically backward and inaccessible tribal areas can cause havoc.

In this scenario, visualise Indian security forces thinly deployed in the countryside facing murderous crowds in the thousands, many equipped with automatic weapons. The force, in self-defence, will either over-react leading to unacceptable civilian casualties or will be disarmed and possibly lynched. It is noteworthy that despite a sizeable army and paramilitary presence, domination of the Kashmir Valley and six worst affected districts of Punjab proved difficult.

We should doctrinally accept it as a problem of terrorism and deal with it as such. On Thursday the PM recommended enhanced inter-state cooperation. He should call an all party meeting and build a consensus against providing any space to Naxalites for electoral gains or political appeasement. Proactively invoking Article 355 of the Constitution, legislation should be enacted empowering the Centre to suo motu deploy Central forces in badly affected areas. State governments may be informed that provisions of Articles 365/352 could be invoked in the eventuality of breakdown of constitutional machinery if they fail to control the problem.

The number of policemen available for per one lakh population in all the Naxal-affected states is amongst the lowest and much below the national average of 123 — Bihar 56, Chhattisgarh 92, Jharkhand 74, Orissa 92. At least 150 policemen per one lakh population must be made available. More important is qualitative upscaling of manpower. Operational capabilities of state intelligence, right up to the police station level, must be built for undertaking tactical operations. Concerted efforts to choke Naxals’ sources of finance and channels of procuring weapons also deserves high priority.

A concerted effort should be made to access the affected population to disabuse them of misleading propaganda. The media, think-tanks and NGOs operating in these region could be enlisted. These are only some illustrative policy ideas which need to be converted into a comprehensive action plan.

The writer was director, Intelligence

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