Security operations and development initiatives by the government may have caused an ebb in Naxal violence since the peak of 2010,but last weeks attack on a Congress convoy in Chhattisgarh has come as a wake-up call that the threat is far from over.
The decline notwithstanding,Maoists have still been taking a heavy toll on their targets,killing 865 civilians and 299 security personnel from 2011 to May 15,2013. Over the same period,Naxals have suffered fewer casualties (216) than they have caused,though over 4,000 of them have been arrested and 959 have surrendered.
A few weeks before the Chhattisgarh attack,the home ministrys Naxal management division had assessed its figures for 2012-13 and noted an overall decline in Naxal violence and fewer causalities among security personnel,for which it credited specialised forces and unmanned aerial surveillance.
After the latest strike,a government officer admitted,It is also clear that Maoists have changed their tactics,because of which intelligence agencies and security forces were caught unawares.
Former Chhattisgarh DGP Vishwaranjan,who was behind several operations against Maoists,stresses the use of force. The development initiatives of the government will have no results unless the Maoists are wiped out completely. They will continue to hamper these initiatives by destroying roads and infrastructure.
In the past five years,Naxals have targeted elements of basic infrastructure railway lines,telephone exchange,school buildings,transmission poles more frequently than they have targeted mines and power plants. All economic targets combined,the number struck rose from 182 in 2008 to 214 in 2012. Most of these strikes have taken place in Chhattisgarh,Jharkhand and Bihar.
In 2005 as well as 2010,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressed the governments concerns. I do recognise that although law and order is primarily the states responsibility,this is a problem which has acquired a magnitude that cooperation between states and Centre is absolutely necessary and that the central government must help the states in every possible way. If we dont,it can affect our growth, Singh said in a statement on May 24,2010.
Over the years,various government leaders and wings have assessed the extent and causes of the threat and looked at remedies. In 2006,the home ministry took anti-Naxal operations out of its internal security division to form the Naxal management division. Headed by an additional secretary,the division includes an officer of brigadier level as security adviser. It is responsible for coordinating with states,providing them aid and mobilising central forces according to need.
In 2009,then minister of state for home Ajay Maken had told the Rajya Sabha,The Naxalites exploit the real or perceived grievances of the people relating to inadequacies of administration,unemployment and lack of development,to generate anti-government feelings and to mobilise them in their favour. He had stressed state government efforts to hold talks with Maoist. In Vishwaranjans view,however,There is no point holding talks with them as they they do not want to come on common ground. They want to replace the democratic system.
Also in 2009,a comprehensive audit commissioned by the CAG identified policing problems in states affected by left-wing extremism. A number of police stations had not been provided four-wheelers by states,police stations were poorly maintained,and training was lax,said the report,adding motivation was so low that police in several states were simply not challenging the Naxals. In Orissa and Jharkhand the state was seen to have retreated,the audit said,while Chhattisgarh had expressed a resolve but not implemented it in a focused manner.
A 2010 Planning Commission report listed 233 districts in 20 states as affected by left-wing extremism,67 of these as worst affected.
Naxals have been more audacious than ever in the current year. Before the attack on the Congress convoy,they brought down an IAF helicopter in Chhattisgarh in January. In Jharkhand,they stitched a 1.5-kilo bomb inside the abdomen of a slain CRPF jawan. They were also planning to create rocket launchers for use against security forces,according to a revelation by Sadanula Ramakrishna,a mechanical engineer and head of the Maoists central technical committee,arrested in February based on information gathered by Andhra Pradesh police.
Intelligence sources say recent trends suggest that Maoist cadres are looking to forge alliances with other non-state actors including some northeastern groups. The National Investigation Agency,entrusted with probing the latest Chhattisgarh attack,is hunting for top Naxal leaders such as Muppalla Laksmana Rao alias Ganpathy.