KNOWN for his tough stand against Maoists when in service,former Chhattisgarh DGP Vishwaranjan now believes that incidents like the Sarkeguda encounter that left 17 tribals dead last month do no good to the forces. Ethically,no war is just. Ultimately you brutalise your own people, he told The Indian Express,adding that the only solution to the Naxal problem was focused development.
His advice forms a part of the memoirs that Vishwaranjan is writing since retirement in March.
Security personnel,Vishwaranjan said,normally inflict more injury then required in special operations. Forces normally tend to overreact in such situations,and then the fallout is too much,almost uncontrollable. You lose people,area and your base. You cannot make informers now.
At the same time,he admitted that Sometimes you reach a situation when there is no option except force. In such a situation,minimising the damage is up to the field leadership,the former DGP said.
Irrespective of the training,the actual training is on the ground. And here the role of the commander becomes crucial. If after an incident,in which a few cops were killed,a commander exhorts his team,Unhone tumhare paanch mare,kya tum bees nahi maroge?,he may be motivating and exhorting his demoralised men,but can also send a wrong signal and cause a lot of collateral damage.
Underlining the role of development,Vishwaranjan said the Naxal problem was solely due to indifference of various governments. When the forces go to an area,we promise a lot to locals. We promise development,to bring back smiles and if it does not happen,and it is not happening now,then the police lose local support. If you do not address local grievances and meet civic needs of the people,and such encounters take place,then police support gradually erodes in the area, he said.
When Naxals first entered any state from a neighbouring state,the government ignored them terming them juvenile visitors. As their activities grew,they were termed a law and order problem. More area came under their influence,and the government now called them a socio-economic issue. Later the government claimed it was a political problem,and finally when the matter went out of hand,it has now been termed a national issue, Vishwaranjan summed up.
However,he admitted that talks cannot be held with Maoists if they do not give up their extreme demands. They may agree to talk but only to buy time or when they have a greater goal in sight.
His advice to the government was to announce special and sustained projects specifically targeted for these areas. Bring whatever force but unless you develop,the deployment wont bring results… and not in the ongoing routine way when a collector is given all the powers. What can patwaris do? Development projects should be run on a mission mode.
Our governments have had such an indifferent approach towards all insurgencies,the former top cop lamented,though admitting that Naxalism was different from religion- or ethnicity-based insurgencies such as in Kashmir,Nagaland or Punjab. A strong ideological base gave it strength,he added.
Talking specifically about Bastar,Vishwaranjan said that successive governments in Chhattisgarh and earlier Madhya Pradesh had no interest in its development,except for former Madhya Pradesh CM Arjun Singh. Pointing to their inability to comprehend the problem on the ground,he said: Once a minister (in Chhattisgarh) advised me to drop 15,000 troops in a region of Bastar,surround Maoists from all sides and eliminate them. I,of course,laughed. But it shows their approach and thinking.
About the possible end of Maoism,he said: All insurgencies have a life. They have periods of ups and down,but their leaders get tired and finally they burn out. It does not mean that the ideology dies but more people join the mainstream. After all,how long one can have a protracted war?
During his reign,activists had accused Vishwaranjan of curtailing civil liberties,besides being the chief architect of the case against Binayak Sen. He also had an over 20-year stint with the Intelligence Bureau tracking Naxals.
With a few poetry collections in Hindi to his credit,the former DGP,however,was never one to shy away from an argument. He had an open debate with Maoist spokesperson Gudsa Usendi on the edit page of a Chhattisgarh daily for several days,for example,probably the only instance of a senior IPS officer engaging a Maoist ideologue in an open discussion.
Months before he was to retire,Vishwaranjan had been unceremoniously removed due to a reported tussle with a prominent Chhattisgarh minister.