Right kind of strategy can defeat the Maoists
by Ajit Doval
July 18, 2009
THEY HAVE VULNERABILITIES THAT CAN BE EFFECTIVELY EXPLOITED
WHEN the government proclaims Left Wing Extremism as the most serious security threat faced by the country, the obvious question that arises is: What exactly determines the seriousness of a security threat in comparable terms? It is determined by the viciousness of the enemy’s intentions and its capability of causing damage and destruction to achieve its objectives. In this context, intentions include political and ideological objectives that can undermine the established politicoconstitutional order.
Capabilities encompass a wide range of factors — weapons holdings, skills and motivation levels, financial strength, collaborative linkages, quality of leadership, organisation etc.
This, however, is only half the truth. A security threat also depends on the comprehensive power of the state and its ability and will to exercise it, the strength of its institutions to convert state objectives to ground realities, and the capacity of its leadership to optimise its gains from available resources. Often threats assume a seriousness disproportionate to their intrinsic strength not because they are per- se formidable but because the response is deficient. Left Wing Extremism is a case in point.
Left extremists enjoy many advantages like vast and inaccessible terrain which is difficult to dominate or sanitise no matter what force levels are pumped in. Remember how long and what all it took to neutralise one Veerappan in a relatively much smaller area? Further, they have to their advantage not only a huge alienated population that has suffered decades of social and economic neglect, but a setting where the extremists enjoy reach and credibility that no other state or non state actor, including political parties, do. Their other strength is availability of an ideology easy for the extremists to package and sell in the backdrop of the poor credibility of “ democratic” political parties and their leaders.
The extremists are able to project the existing political order as being responsible for their suffering and offering their brand of communism as the sure and only answer. With no counterview projected, they are able to exploit caste conflicts in Bihar, resentment against landlords in Andhra, sentiment against forest laws and practices in tribal areas, unemployment among youth or radicalism among sections of Muslims simultaneously, putting Maoism before all of them as a panacea. Their other strength lies in large scale rural unemployment — increasing every year with a rising youth population. With availability of money to pay as regular salaries, they have more people willing to join their People’s Army than they are capable of training and handling.
However, the story does not end here — they have some high vulnerabilities as well. Like most ideology driven movements, the Left Wing Extremists are controlled by less than a dozen top kingpins and nearly 30 commanders of its armed cadre. They determine the political line, control the resources and design their strategy. The majority of the 13,000 odd armed cadres and the many more supporters are gullible tribals and poor people misled by vicious propaganda, frightened by the gun or lured by the money. For the leaders — who themselves live in conditions of safety and comfort — they are easily replaceable commodities.
Neutralisation of top leaders and activists in the four decades long history of Left Extremism has invariably led to ideological dilution, dissensions, demoralisation, giving a blow to their image of invincibility, and creating doubts about the political viability of the movement and achievability of victory through violence. At the tactical level, it has led to a struggle for leadership, a disruption in sources of funding and weapons and the abandonment of plans in the pipeline.
Further, the questioning of top leaders has often provided strategic and tactical inputs, which, when pursued imaginatively, have substantially weakened the movement. Inherent in intelligent interrogation of top functionaries lie answers to questions that can lead to degradation of the movement.
At times, they become part of the government’s counter terrorist effort and whenever that happens their contribution is substantial. Targeted operations against them are also much more cost effective than frittering away the forces too thinly on the ground and exposing them to dangers with little corresponding gains.
The other vulnerability of Left extremism is its discredited ideology, which has not only been discarded all around the world, but goes against the Indian ethos and civilisational mindset.
Devoid of its ideological plank the movement stands reduced to a problem of organised crime. The leadership fears nothing more than losing its revolutionary halo, though a good number of them lead a life of comfort and, amongst many, even ideological conviction is not as strong as generally believed.
The demolition of this contrived self image is their high vulnerability. A credible, focused and sustained psywar offensive to expose the movement as anti- people will be hard for them to counter. The people should be made to realise that the movement is nothing but a pipe- dream of a few to acquire power through violence.
Contradictions in their ideologies and stories of the ordinary people’s suffering under totalitarian regimes, too, need to be highlighted. There are also many aspects of their collaboration with the rich and powerful to collect funds, instances of moral turpitude, the use of high handed methods to deal with dissent, which need to be given wide publicity. They may not produce instant results but credibly structured, imaginatively packaged and widely disseminated, they can produce spectacular results over a period of time.
It is noteworthy that people are attracted to Left extremism not so much by its ideology as on account of their high personal alienation. The political parties have an antidote to outdo the Left extremists in this game by accessing the people, mobilising them against extremist ideology, redressing their grievances and allaying their fears — real or imaginary — by democratically acceptable means.
Unfortunately, the divisive politics of the country, thriving on the faultlines of caste, religion, language, ethnicity etc are more a cause than cure of the problem. Further, quite often the political parties arrive at a secret political understanding with the extremists for electoral gains. At times, they buy peace by surrendering to their unreasonable demands like allowing them to raise funds or transferring upright and honest officers.
Political parties which for the last six decades have mobilised people under all conceivable faultlines of caste, ethnicity, language, religion etc. should, shift their focus now and use all their equations and influence to defend democracy and national interests.
The money factor is another important element helping Left extremists to expand and intensify their activities.
It enables them to raise their cadre strength by recruiting unemployed youth on regular salaries. A fresh recruit is paid Rs 2,000 to 2,500 per month, which in a poverty stricken backward area is a big attraction. Similarly, with accretion in financial resources, they are able to procure more sophisticated and greater quantities of weapons, adding to their firepower and lethality.
It is estimated that the extremists are able to collect nearly Rs 1200 crore a year, which is big money, for carrying out a subversive warfare in tribal and backward areas. It is able to raise these funds through corrupt government officials, protection money collected from rich landlords and businessmen, by intimidating contractors, transporters etc. and the imposition of levies on forest and coal produce etc.
Paradoxically, the increase in government outlays for development activities in affected areas also strengthen them financially because these enhanced outlays are not backed up by an effective and accountable administrative machinery.
Naxal violence is different from other conventional terrorist models in its tactics which provide much larger space for security and intelligence agencies to operate. Unlike terrorists who work through small conspiratorial groups, maintaining utmost secrecy, Naxal violence is carried out through mobilisation of large bodies of men running into several hundreds. Intelligence penetration in such situations is much easier and can open up various possibilities to counter their actions.
The doctrine of using time tested methods of pumping in more paramilitary forces without a definite plan, enhancing modernisation grants without monitoring how they are being used, and building ever new platforms for better coordination may be correct, but they are not adequate to tackle the problem. A strategic shift is necessary to turn the tide in our favour.
The writer is former chief of the Intelligence Bureau
Sunday, September 6, 2009
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Your posts has really helped me to see what as a young citizen of India, i should aim for! I would very much like to meet you in person and this relationship of author and reader to next level and i am based in Delhi.
Look forward to meet you in-person!
I am still a student in this subject, but i would like to add my viewpoint also. Whenever we see terrorism or poverty in any region we somehow do not realize importance of talent. Every region has some unique talent with themselves but whole of our society is based on memorization characteristics of a human being and not talent. In my self study my conclusion says that in modern terrorism each terror group is divided in three layers A) Fanatics heads (Amir) B) Educated youth C) poor or unemployed ground force. Layer A exists because of layer C and layer B exists because of Layer A. Now if we try to understand what lead to all these layers is that Layer A are self centered individuals who are either power or money driven with huge ego and rest in reality they do not care for any ideology. For example everyone blames Osama Bin Laden for Al-queda but in reality real father of the group who transformed this to an ideology was Ali Mohammad. If we understand his mind, we realize he was just one huge mad man working as undercover agent, who wanted to prove his tactical strength and thus whatever global terror we see today is given birth by him and Osama wanted to do something with his power and thus Ali just used Osama. No diplomatic talks can resolve to remove layer A and surgical operation is only solution. But conclusion is somewhere there talent got unrecognized in early teenage. Layer B is highly educated talented youth who end up doing or working what they did not wish to and end up being frustrated and thus looks for causes to take out there frustrations and are being brain washed and they are the deadliest one in any terror cell and strong one click intelligence sharing is the only solution to capture them because no counter terror force be of any use as they come to die so we need to capture them when they are planning not when they come for an attack. Now comes layer C. This layer C is most interesting as this could become rebels, maoists cadres, insurgents, criminals. This also tells a sad story of world so called educationists. There is one comman thing where you find layer C, that region is highly talented in handicrafts, weaving, art, music. They put all there money to make these small items but due to lack of marketing avenues they loose money and thus we see poverty. Then government decides to irradiate poverty by industrializing that region. We miss simple thing, what makes an artist? He has beautiful mind which can imagine and now he ends up working in a factory and within month looses interest and he looses job. Now with no money ends up in drugs or alchol and companies hires people from outside and when locals see that happening then conflict begins. Example Maharashtra, Himachal, Uttrakhand. now if government fails to put industries or make some arrangements with PSU's also then what option a poor man has? He has never come out of village, so he only sees his family. Thus he prefers to see his happy family and then die than seeing his family die while he his alive. This is what happens in each part of the world. As you rightly said sir, short term is to track top bosses through all available world intelligence gathering technologies, launch surgical operation but simultaneously develop talent oriented industry. For example why cant we procure their handicrafts and put them in ware houses in europe and US and sell them through e-commerce and as product gets sold then that money directly gets transfer to that artist online. Recognition of talent can help us irradiate present global security threat. This is till where i have thought but now i need to learn more from you sir and refine my thoughts!
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