Thursday, April 08, 2010

NAXALISM: (N) Lessons from Chintalnar

An entire company of the Central Reserved Police Force (CRPF) was ambushed by Maoists at Chintalnar, a remote outpost situated deep in the forests of south Bastar (Dantewada): in all more than 76 (of 81) soldiers were martyred, making yesterday’s violence the greatest defeat and massacre ever that the Naxalites (as Maoists in India are more commonly known) have inflicted on India’s armed forces. The local MLA, who was barely twenty kilometers away in his hometown Sukama at the time, called to say that all modes of transportation (including his own)- bullock carts, jeeps, tractors, taxis, trolleys, trucks- are being requisitioned to transport bodies to the police camp situated at a distance of barely three kilometers (about a mile and a half).

A Tale of Two Camps
At times like this, it’s easy to pontificate, more so when one is at a fairly comfortable distance: most editorialists agree that the massacre was primarily due to “intelligence failure”. It would seem that this failure is chronic. The two biggest Maoist attacks on armed forces in the state of Chhattisgarh have taken place in the immediate proximity of police camps:
(1) At Errabore (2006), more than hundred Naxalites entered the camp premises at night and conducted a 3-hour long bloodbath on the tribal ‘refugees’ (as the then state home minister termed inmates) while the armed forces entrusted with their security had very safely locked themselves up inside the thana (police station);

(2) At Chintalnar (2010), about 1000 Naxalites, all reportedly trained members of a Maoist military unit (dalam), not only ambushed the armed forces as the latter were returning from patrol duty to the police camp and made off with their ammunitions but before doing so, they had also found ample time to systematically lay down an intricate network of landmines all around the camp perimeter. The mines, as it turned out, claimed more lives than the actual shooting as soldiers fleeing to the sanctuary of the camp stepped on- and thus triggered- them. Even the anti-mine vehicle was blown to smithereens.

It is perplexing, to say the least, that our armed forces more often than not don’t have a clue about what’s happening in their own backyards. No wonder, they are sitting ducks for the Maoists, who seem to have become, well, almost invisible (if not invincible). This cloak of invisibility, no doubt, is partly due to Fear: for the battle-ravaged tribals of Bastar, to tell on the Maoists is to invite death. And yet, if this Fear of the Maoists is to be countered & overcome, then putting the tribals under a greater Fear of the Armed Forces, as Operation Green Hunt seems to have done, cannot be the solution.

The only way to overcome Fear, I believe, is by Faith.

To put it differently, you can’t have good intelligence unless the locals tell you things they otherwise would not. Caught between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea- the Maoists on the one hand, and the paramilitary forces on the other- the tribals of south Bastar prefer to remain silent. To remedy that, it is essential for the armed forces- and for the state that sends them- to win their faith. And, frankly, there is very little proof of that happening.

What's in a name?
Late last month, some villagers from Narayanpur met me. They were afraid. According to them, several soldiers of the Border Security Force (BSF) had entered their area & were carrying out ‘combing’ operations. During one such operation, one of the soldiers stopped a passing woman. He asked her name. When she answered ‘Dukhbai’, he took out his already loaded AK-47 rifle, and shot her at pointblank range. It turns out that the soldier had been given a list of names of Naxalite-supporters to comb-out, and ‘Dukhbai’ was one of them. What the soldier didn’t- couldn’t- know is that ‘Dukhbai’ is an extremely common name among tribals. (‘Dukh’ means sad, and tribals believe that a person so named would ward-off sadness all her life.)

Intelligence failure, therefore, is not only claiming the lives of our soldiers, but also of several hundreds- if not thousands- of innocent tribals.

License to Kill
Mr. Mahendra Karma, the leader of Salwa Judum, believes that recruiting more Special Police Officers (SPOs) from among the locals would enable better intelligence gathering since the SPOs understand the people, and know the terrain. His reasoning has been adopted by the state government. In fact, one of the reasons cited for the debacle at Chintalnar is that the CRPF soldiers were not accompanied by SPOs (although at least two personnel from the state police were with them) at the time of the ambush.

With due respect, it doesn’t quite work out like that. The SPOs have, more often than not, used their ‘license to kill’ to settle personal scores, and engage in extortion. Personal motives- a grudge, an age-old family rivalry, greed- underlie most ‘fake encounters’, in which innocent persons are routinely killed, then clothed in Naxalite uniform along with other ‘incriminating’ material to justify the killings. Institutions like the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram founded by the eminent Gandhian Ms. Nirmala Deshpande, which has been working for & with tribals in remote far-off areas of Dantewada, are bulldozed when they endeavor to seek justice for them: they are branded as ‘enemies of the state’.

I am acutely aware that any criticism of the armed forces at a time like this would be construed as anti-national and pro-Naxal. That is not my intention. I sincerely believe that the only reason why the Congress failed to form its government in the state in 2003 and 2008 is because of the Naxalites, or more precisely, their active prevention of a free and fair election in Bastar, possibly at the behest of the BJP leadership. So, my dislike of the Maoists- many of who are, I believe, using violence inherent to Maoist doctrine primarily as a means to stuff their pockets with money- is both personal as well as political. They are enemies, alright, who deserve to be taken out by whatever means necessary, including an all-out war. But it must be a Just War, and more importantly, it must be Won. I intend to address both these issues.

A Just War
Even though the Naxalites entertain no such notion- in this sense, Deng’s slogan “it doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white/ as long as it catches mice”, which heralded capitalism into communist China, is, at least in its pragmatism, ironically Maoist- the fact is that as a democratic state bound by a Constitution, we must not only subscribe to, but also rigorously enforce the ideas of jus ad bellum (when it is right to go to war) and jus in bellum (what is right in war).

There is no doubt in my mind that this is the right time to go to war with the Maoists; if we do not retaliate, and retaliate effectively, it might just be too late. But the war that we fight must be just. It must, at all costs, not involve the unnecessary, unjustifiable displacement and killings of civilians, more so when the civilians in question are innocent tribals. Those of the armed forces who are found to be guilty of this most basic human rights violation- in this case, the right of a tribal to live (as opposed to being shot dead because of her name)- should not be wrongly protected; they must be brought to book. For if they are not, then there is no way the war can be won. The tribals not only need to know which side they are on (right now, they can at best be described as ‘neutral’); they also need to believe that their side is right.

The two issues, therefore, are directly linked. For us to win the war, we must necessarily fight the just war. That is the only way we can win the Faith of the tribals.

For without this Faith, intelligence failures like Errabore and Chintalnar will continue.

19 comments (टिप्पणी):

Hari Mishra said...

Good assessment of the situtation. But it is not a law and order issue only. It is related to development and inclusive growth of people at the grassroot. People's perception of the state machinery needs lot more improvement in terms of delivery capability of distributive justice and acceptability. Thanks people like you are seized of the issues to find out a long lasting solution

Rohitash Khanduja said...

great views sir but dont you think the use of brutal force for a sustained time is also a good option why not deploy the army and possibly even RAW wont they be able to finish of these rats in a matter of few months.....of course after the violent factions are eliminated the govt. can think of development for the rest in peace .........but all these are just things we can say sadly nothing is ever going to happen

Nitin Pant said...

amit it is nothing more than sheer failure of the govt.....a barbaric sloughter of mankind....reminds us about the good time we had ...

Hari Mishra said...

Do not agree.Deployment of army/ RAW for internal issues is likely to create more problems than solving and has several other dimensions.You may eliminate a few people ..others will fill up the vaccume unless the root cause is eradicated.i fully appreciate your anguish as all of us mute spectators are having but need to respond with tact and wisdom not spur of the moment violent reaction

mehul maru said...

नक्सलवाद के कारण पूरा देश और हमारा छत्तीसगढ़ त्रस्त है और लगता है नक्सलवाद की समस्या कुछ वर्षो बाद श्रीलंका के लिट्टे की तरह गंभीर रूप न लेले.
मगर इन सभी के बीच निर्दोष आदिवाशी मारे जाते रहे है और हमारे सिपही बेकार ख़ुफ़िया तंत्र के कारण मारे जा रहे है छत्तीसगढ़ में तो नक्सलवाद नाशुर बन गया है.
अब यहाँ और आस-पास के राज्यों में रास्ट्रपति साशन लगा दिया जाना जरुरी हो गया है.
जरा गंभीर चिंतन करने का विषय है, अगर नक्सलवाद ने श्रीलंकन लिट्टे का रूप ले लिया तो फिर पुलिस क्या,सुरक्षा बल क्या, थल सेना और वायु सेना तो लानी ही पड़गी ?
इस कारण कल करे सो आज कर की निति अपनाते हुवे एक देश व्यापी गंभीर चिंतन कर नक्सलवाद के खिलाफ सेना का इस्तमाल किया जाये ??

dr vivek said...

i m not able to understand the reason why government is not taking militry action with screening of individual who are residential to that place they should be provided protection too .............


Mohd. Nasar said...

we must have to give training to CRPF Jawans for jungle fight as it is reported in HT Jawans were untrained at for jungle fight.

Anwar Khursheed said...

Amit ji, very true to win the just war the authorities have to win the FAITH of the tribes,and they do need some kind of protection to.

Siddharth S. Seth said...

Its indeed shameful and high time when ppl need to focus on such issues with concern rather taking it as an obligation. I wonder why do ppl jus revolve around page 3 gossips and in the thrust of portfolios when they cant even manage thngs well. Well lets put an end , i think naxalism or anything else is like interior terrorism in this country wherein change of minds , unfortunate influences are decaying the roots of this country: THE only solution is not alone back answer them with guns , but the govt performing its duties under the "welfare state " in its true essence, curbing the gap between the executive / state and its people, literacy , good health , food , shelter and employment.

LET US CONTRIBUTE RATHER THAN CURSING BY ATLEAST GETTING CAPABLE PEOPLE onnnnn THE CHAIRS..............and by contributing to these ppl down their through which ever vocation/occupation or profession we practise or profess.
LET us MAKE DHANTEWADA a place known for its rich culture, artistic excellence rather than BLOODY Fields.................

Praying for and saluting our innocent heros who lost their lives and praying for enlightening the path of the "misleads naxals" and stll sleeping govt .

but in the whole process there is another creature who is victim of his identity and his living......... the common men who is not but mistaken to be a "naxalite"


I supplement : that its hightime that a tough action should be initiated but only after in-depth study of the region and identification of the culprits !

Swapnil Verma said...

Terror has neither any language nor it is limited by any region. These 'jawans' fought and compromised their lives so that our families can live in a peaceful environment. Who should take care of thoes hundred families they left behind?
We must act!!!

Ravi Nayak said...

we must have gain the sympathy and confidence of the local peoples for development as well as confidential information ,so that we can make the strategic and tactics against the maoists activities,we must have the knowlege of geographical topology of that forest region.

Rajesh Singh Kaku said...

Gun saves Democarsy sirji ??????????

Veer Vikrant said...

i think that's wat aour governments have been doing since the emergence of naxalism which has left us with many martyrs and the grieved families
so now the time has come for cant endanger the life of thousands for the sake of few.....

Nandkishore K Wairale said...

we need far more superier human intellligence to counter the naxalism. we need to train the the people to distingusih between tribal and a challenge to government of india,

another area is development has to be focussed at war footing level..

Suresh Jain said...

I pledge my whole hearted supporttotheviews expressedby mr.jogi. But at the same time we must also acknowledge the sacrifices by the local poulation livjng in those tribal areas. Using armed forces is just the anotherone but the last option before that the government should do something seriously to win the trust of the people living their who are mute supporters of the naxalism. We should not forget that without providing the basic facilities of insfrastructure and economical sustainbility we can not win the support of the tribal population. The need of the hour is:

1. Compensate the families of those matrys crpf personals.

2. Congress should search for effective leadership in the state who can win the trust of this popelation.

3. Central govt., should appoint a high lelvel commiteee comprising of expertise to held talks with the local to know about their grievances and to win the trust and support of the poeple.

kalpesh said...

i believe this problem is growing due to just because lack of political will. & in india ppl is living & enjoying RAM RAJ & all are happy unless & until problem is not reached up to our door step.

Hitendra said...

The Dukhbai story is so unbelievable.

Amit Aishwarya Jogi.अमित ऐश्वर्य जोगी said...

@Hitendra: It has been my experience that fact is more often than not stranger than fiction.

Dr vivek said...

“The government must take strong action to ensure justice for the lowest strata of people in these areas. Fighting is not the answer to the Naxal problem,take example of kerela

''government must address the “root causes” of the Naxal problem without which counter-insurgency operations would not be successful

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