On April 25, 2017, India woke up to the news of 25 CRPF jawans killed by Maoists in south Sukma region of Chhattisgarh. The ambush was laid to thwart construction of a link road considered crucial for checking the insurgency. Maoists had killed 76 CRPF personnel in the same area earlier in 2010 and 12 CRPF jawans were killed in similar fashion at a place not far from this site only last month. The 99- strong team which was ambushed by 300-400 Naxals had moved in the region to provide security to the workers constructing the road. Government’s response is on the expected lines; a knee-jerk reaction of paying back for the cowardly act and a firm resolve to overhaul and if required revisit the strategy to deal with the rebels.
Home Minister’s statement that the government has accepted the ambush as a challenge may be taken at the best as a morale boosting exercise and hardly inspires any confidence in the man on the street. Since the birth of the movement the stand of the Naxals has been that they are fighting to protect the rights of the tribal and the landless farmers. The genesis of the movement lies in Naxalbari village of West Bengal. Had the police helped the tribal youth who brought a court order to till his field and taken action against the local landlords on that fateful day of 02 March, 1967, the 25 CRPF personnel would have lived.
Had subsequent governments in West Bengal and at the centre not played politics and taken the required action against the likes of Charu Mujamdar who was inspired by the Mao doctrine, India would not be fighting the Maoists insurgency today. It is well known that they have strong presence in at least 9 states and have become biggest internal security threat, dictating their own terms to the state and central governments.
Some things that stand out clearly from the dastardly attack are: government has not done enough to develop the Bastar region, Maoists want to stop any type of intrusion like the road construction activity in the areas they literally rule at any cost, there was complete intelligence failure by the involved CRPF units and their HQs and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were not followed. CRPF is an all-India service who did not have any knowledge of the area of operation; they should have been supported by the state police. All this and more was responsible for the security forces walking into the death trap.
The families of the martyrs are absolutely right in venting their anger by questioning the measures the present governments have taken to crush the insurgency. Why is it that constructing link roads in the Maoist infested areas takes so much of time? How is it that the three lakh strong all India force is headless for the past two months? What happened to the policy of appointing the Director General well in time? Is it only the non-availability of suitable officer or is it because of the political pulls and pushes to get a particular favourite that it takes so much of time to pick a name out of the eligible officers? Or is it the eternal tussle between the IAS and IPS which no minister is able to control? It is believed that it is not only the DG who is missing but also six more vacancies exist at the Special D G level which is the next highest rank in the organization. Is it not disgraceful for the MHA?
The politicians of all hue and colours are at their best mechanization when ever soldiers are martyred in Kashmir or BSF/CRPF/ITBP jawans are killed elsewhere. The politicians are so insensitive and thick-skinned that they refuse to see that it is because of their acts of omission and commission that an average Indian has to go through anger, disgust, frustration, pain and ultimate helplessness on regular basis. It is known that our problems as a nation are immense; apart from the hostile neighbours like Pakistan and China we face the challenge of internal security threat in Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur and many Naxal infested states.
It is felt that future of India will be more decided on the basis of its internal threats rather than the external ones. It is most unfortunate that India is bleeding profusely and the politician is responsible for it to a large extent. Is it the right time to heed to the advice of Piloo Modi who had suggested in the 1950s that all politicians must be thrown in the deep blue sea? Today’s politicians are certainly of far inferior variety and need a much harsher punishment if they don’t mend their ways in the interest of India.
New Delhi must change its approach towards managing internal security threats. Once we understand the genesis of the Naxal movement, it will be easier for us to address their concerns. Under-development is major reason for the insurgency. It should not be difficult for the government to understand that new technologies have acted as force-multipliers for our ability to share, to cooperate with one another and to take collective action for common cause, something which was not possible till a few years earlier. In recent times we have seen the power of social media which has changed the way we used to think, plan and act.
For terrorists and insurgents assembling groups of people at a predetermined place to pressurise governments, institutions or organisations, a task which is too big for one or for couple of persons, is now easily possible. We observe different kinds of group formations taking place; Facebook friends and chat groups of WhatsApp are examples. This can have profound social ramifications for making a better or worse society as people can be motivated to volunteer for helping each other in times such as natural disasters and other calamities as also anti-nationals can be assembled to a particular place for ambushes or other disruptive activities.
Making the terrorists and other anti-national elements understand that violence can never help them get what they want is the job of any government. Trust-deficit is the fundamental reason why the two opposing sides in any conflict refuse to see reason. Conflict resolution and power of quality leadership are the two subjects no politician or bureaucrat understands. Our security forces have demonstrated the qualities of junior and senior leaderships while fighting the insurgents since independence. However, there is an urgent need for CRPF and ITBP and other para-military forces involved in counter insurgency operations to be trained in these two vital areas. The fact that leadership is a matter of mindset is illustrated beautifully by Talleyrand:
I am more afraid of an army of a hundred sheep, led by a
a hundred sheep, led by a lion,
than I am of a hundred lions
led by a sheep
A leader must always and every time model the way through personal example and dedicated execution. In the case in point the vacuum at the higher leadership level is certainly a reason for the present state of affairs. India is blessed with a large pool of trained, competent, disciplined, hard working, sincere and honest ex-servicemen. Unfortunately, some myths spread by vested interests have deprived the governments of using this unique resource of trained manpower. We must make optimal use of volunteer local ex-servicemen to support police and CRPF.
How do we expect an Indian to take pride in being one even when there are good reasons for him to do so if the politicians let him get killed at the hands of the terrorists and other insurgent groups without doing enough to control the situation? With every sixth person on earth an Indian, we could make the world a far better place to live; unfortunately the politician continues to let us down with mismanagement of a country which has the potential to become a great nation. A two-pronged strategy of fast pace of development- not the kind mega mining projects promise- and all out manhunt of the insurgents is required. We can no more afford to ignore the grievances of the tribal. But understanding what exactly the Maoists are fighting for is the key to the problem.