Notwithstanding recent grim tragedies, the Maoists can easily be routed through sustained efforts. India should give the over-zealous (Western) human rights industry the treatment China has meted out
The Centre must give a fitting response to the shocking ambush and murder of 25 CRPF jawans at Burkapal in the Bastar forests of Sukma district by Maoist killer squads on April 24, 2017. This is Chhattisgarh’s second deadly ambush this year; 12 CRPF jawans having been gunned down on March 11 in forests under Bhenji police station, also in Sukma district. Both strikes targetted the expansion of roads in the area. The complete intelligence failure reflects the intensity of Maoist terror in the area or their purchase of local support, or both.
Given the Maoists’ ability to maintain complete dominance in the selected area of action, it would be desirable to extend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to all Naxalite-infested districts in Chhattisgarh (only Bastar remains affected), Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
The menace could be wiped out once and for all within a specific time frame. Already, as Union Minister for Home Affairs Rajnath Singh informed the Lok Sabha on March 17, 2017, districts affected by Left-wing extremism have reduced from 106 to 68 (since 2011). But the ‘red corridor’ enables movement across State boundaries, which AFSPA could plug effectively.
It is pertinent that the Naxalbari menace that surfaced in West Bengal in 1967, was crushed in just four years by the combined will of the Centre and State Government, both ruled by the same party. Barring Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha, the Bharatiya Janata Party or friendly parties are in power in the affected States; all or most would cooperate to end the terror and extend the benefits of development to the beleaguered citizens of those regions.
This is the time to strike decisively, as Maoists are on the defensive; 397 surrendered between January and March this year. Whether it is Chhattisgarh or Jammu and Kashmir, where terrorist Burhan Wani has been lionised after his death in an encounter in July 2016, the Narendra Modi Government must appreciate that an attack on the Army or CRPF/ police is an attack on the symbols of State power.
Intellectuals operating as urban mentors of Maoists and terrorists /separatists comprise the more formidable frontier, and need to be crushed without mercy. We must recognise the recalcitrance oozing out of universities which have been incubating anti-national elements (at par with terrorist sleeper cells) who take high profiles at hidden commands.
Intelligence officers have noted that around the time Delhi University student Gurmehar Kaur misused her father’s martyrdom (while protecting Amarnath pilgrims in August 1999) to promote her extreme Left profile, slogans like Bastar mange azaadi were heard for the first time. This shows how quickly anti-nationals can spread their mischief.
On the flip side, in March 2017, Delhi University professor GN Saibaba was convicted in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and sentenced to life imprisonment for links with Maoists. Disregarding Saibaba’s physical handicap, Principal District and Sessions Judge SS Shinde observed that he was “mentally fit, a think-tank, and a high-profile leader of banned organisations”. JNU student Hem Mishra, former journalist Prashant Rahi and four others were sentenced in the same case.
Judge Shinde has hit the nail on the head. The real threat to India comes from academics who double up as human rights activists, link up with well-funded think-tanks and NGOs (the Home Ministry is systematically curbing foreign funding to these bodies), lawyers, media persons, and professional activists who raise a hue and cry in international (Western) capitals every time Maoists or terrorists are eliminated or on the run. Their silence is deafening when Armed Forces personnel or civilians are slaughtered by the same anti-nationals.
In this regard, the most disappointing institutions have been the National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court. The latter’s July 2011 judgement declaring Salwa Judum, the anti-Maoist people’s movement, as illegal, reinvigorated the Maoists and culminated in the May 2013 slaughter of its founder, Mahendra Karma, and several Congress leaders, including Vidya Charan Shukla.
More stunning is the case of the murder of an Adivasi, Shamnath Baghel, in November 2016, in Soutenar village near Jagdalpur, in the presence of his wife, aged parents and four children. In her complaint to the police, Vimla Baghel stated that some activists (including Nandini Sundar of Delhi University, Archana Prasad of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Vineet Tiwari of the Joshi-Adhikar Institute of Social Sciences and Sanjay Parate, state secretary, Communist Party of India) had visited the village in May and reportedly warned Baghel against opposing the Maoists; his murder followed refusal to obey.
Sources allege that the activists moved around the region using fake identities. The administration wrote to the Vice Chancellors asking how the professors got leave and funds to move around in this manner, but the said universities made no inquiries. Yet murders have happened in villages visited by the activists.
Strangely, when police lodged an FIR in the murder of Shamnath Baghel, the Supreme Court came down so hard that even the lawyers became nervous. Chhattisgarh police was told to establish the links between the professors and Maoists in 24 hours, or face prosecution. When the police furnished an email trail, the court did not take it on record, though it toned down its approach to the case. The same Supreme Court recently told the Indian Army that despite the protection of the AFSPA, FIRs must be registered in each case of encounter killing in Jammu & Kashmir!
Urgent attention needs to be paid to the extortion rackets flourishing in the Naxalite belt, said to be around Rs 1,100 crore in Bastar alone, from industrialists engaged in iron ore mining, tendu patta traders, the Public Works Department and construction companies. Extraction from other States is much higher, as the catchment area is wider. Armed cadres receive a pittance; the bulk is cornered to fund the activities of so-called human rights activists.
Naturally, Maoists resist infrastructure and development in resource-rich backward regions. The spread of roads, electricity, schools, and employment opportunities for tribals threatens their easy pickings, and facilitate rapid movement of police. This is why the Centre has focused on building fortified police stations and mobile phone towers to improve security and communications in Naxal-prone areas.
Notwithstanding these grim tragedies, the Maoists can easily be routed through sustained efforts. India should give the (Western) human rights industry the treatment meted out by China and establish the rule of law in the land.
By Sandhya Jain
(The writer is a political analyst and an independent researcher)
Courtesy: The Pioneer