In the fourth part of the Naxalism series, we focus on the Government’s strategy in tackling Naxalism and the way ahead. (The first part of the series on the history and evolution of Naxalismis is here. The second part on the factors responsible for the rise of Naxalism is here. The third part on the security threats posed by Naxalism is here.)
The Government’s strategy to address Left Wing Extremism (LWE)
1. Ban on CPI Maoist, along with all its formations and front organizations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
2. Assistance to LWE States: ‘Police’ and ‘Public order’ being State subjects, action with respect to maintenance of law and order lies primarily in the domain of the concerned State Governments. However, the Central Government closely monitors the situation and coordinates and supplements their efforts in several ways to deal with the LWE problem. These include:
- providing Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Commando Battalions for Resolute Action (CoBRA),
- setting up of Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorism (CIAT) schools;
- modernization of the State Police and their Intelligence apparatus etc.
Assistance is also provided by the central government under the following schemes:
- Security Related Expenditure Scheme (SRE)
- Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS)
- Central Scheme for assistance to civilian victims/family of victims of terrorist, communal and naxal violence
- Civic Action Programme (CAPs)
3. Action Plan: The Government has formulated National Policy and Action Plan adopting four pronged strategy in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights & entitlement of local communities and management of public perception.
4. Strengthening the intelligence mechanism: This includes intelligence sharing through Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) at the central level and State Multi Agency Centre (SMAC) at the subsidiary level on 24×7 basis.
5. Better inter-state coordination by way of frequent meetings and interaction between the bordering districts of LWE affected states.
6. Media plan: The media has proved to be a potent instrument in creating awareness among the target population about the socio-economic developmental schemes of the Government and their rights & entitlements. The media has also helped to highlight LWE activities to make people aware as to how LWE violence is preventing implementation of the welfare and development schemes, policies and initiatives of the Government.
7. A Surrender and Rehabilitation Policy for LWE cadre surrenderees.
8. Roshani Scheme (Ministry of Rural Development): It is a placement linked skill development scheme for rural and tribal population, in worst affected districts. It emphasizes on special efforts to proactively cover the particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) on a priority basis.
Related: What is Salwa Judum? Read here for details.
A few success stories in the fight against Naxalism
Sandesh block in Bihar has seen a gradual elimination of Naxalites. The most important factor which proved instrumental in dismantling naxal dominance was the panchayat elections initiated in Bihar. It created a significant distance between the Naxal leaders and the local community. Social pressure forced many naxalites to switch over to farming and shed off their association with naxal outfits.
Aasdwar project in Jehanabad (Bihar)
Under this project, 5 Naxalite affected panchayats (Jehanabad district of Bihar) are witnessing a flurry of development activities on a war footing e.g. construction of cement lanes, link roads, drains, buildings for schools and anganwadis, individual toilets etc. The people, at large, seem to have embraced the programme in a big way. So, as this case study amplifies, Naxalism can be defeated and eliminated by the process of development and a new social order but the change has to come from within.
AP greyhounds model
Andhra Pradesh’s Greyhound naxal fighting force along with infrastructure development and effective surrender and rehabilitation policy has also proved effective. Other elements in the Andhra Pradesh model include:
- Culture of police leadership
- Sound knowledge of local terrain
- Incentives to police for good work
- Operations based on local intelligence
- Grass roots involvement in anti-Naxal operations
The way forward:
Naxalism is not merely a law and order issue. To truly eliminate naxalism, we must undercut its raison d’être, its reason for existence. While the methods of Naxalites may be abhorrent, most of their goals (apart from overthrowing the government) are not. The government must fulfill these goals for them so that they have nothing to fight for.
The government must adopt a multipronged composite strategy. We can broadly divide the strategy as follows:
1. Development strategy:
- Better infrastructure in core naxal areas
- Special forcus on political security and accelerated socio economic development in a holistic manner
- Political parties must strengthen their cadre base in naxal areas
- Decentralisation and participative democracy
- Better implementation of government schemes
2. Security strategy
- Promote local resistance groups on lines on ‘village defence committees’ in J&K
- Formation of specially trained special task forces on the pattern of Greyhounds in affected states
- Professional dominance by security forces with primacy of state police at all levels
- Modernisation and upgradation of state police infrastructure, weapons and technical equipment
- Strengthening local intelligence units
- Tightening control on availability of explosives
- Posting of competent and motivated police officers in LWE affected areas
3. Psychological Operations
- Administration should engage with public at large, civil society, NGOs to restore people’s faith and confidence in the government machinery
- Media and public perception management
4. Other measures
- The doors for peace talks should always be open
- There should be genuine attempts to win the hearts and minds of people
- Time-bound conviction of arrested cadre must be ensured through vital reforms in criminal justice system
- Effective surrender and rehabilitation policy ensuring proper safety and care of their families
- Better adherence to law legislated for protection and development of tribals
5. Understanding the tribal psychology and addressing their concerns:
Efforts should be made to better understand the tribal psychology e.g. the tribals having been left out of the development process are also oblivious to the potential enhancement in the quality of life if the growth process were to touch them. If they knew the potential benefits of growth, they would realize the futility of violence and see reason to participate in the growth process and become part of the mainstream without losing their identity and culture.
Another example:The tribals’ opposition to part away with their land is not only due to livelihood concerns, but also their shield against a system they are unfamiliar with. The fear of not being fit enough to participate in a system alien to them also adds as a disincentive to give up their land. This, in the end, results in a conflict as there is a clash of ideas that ultimately drives the tribals further away from the mainstream and the reach of the Indian State.
Efforts should therefore be made to better understand the tribal psychology and address their concerns.
Related example: A tradition that lands tribal youth in jail.
6. Need for policy changes:
Nanadan Nilekani in his book ‘Imagining India’ argues that empowering local tribal communities to take decisions on forest resources and environment through PESA and the Forest Rights Act can enable them to leverage their lands for economic gains. Nilekani argues that the challenges posed by climate change have actually opened up the possibility of integrating the unorganized economic activity of the tribals. He adds that once resource rights are established, rural and tribal communities can earn incomes by participating in carbon cap and trading schemes with businesses and industries. Connecting these tribal groups (in the same way NCDEX has connected India’s farmers to commodity markets) would bring these communities into our markets in big way.
But, measures such as these require drastic policy shifts at the very top. An environment policy for the future could indirectly bring the historically marginalized citizens of India i.e. the tribals into the mainstream facilitating participation in the larger growth process of an economically resurgent India.
Relevant: The example of the Apatani tribe of Arunachal Pradesh.