October 24, 2004
By agreeing to negotiate with Naxalite groups, the Government has only emboldened those who choose the path of violence to meet their political ends. In my view, any state, community, or a group of people who succumb to violence are abdicating their basic commitment to a civilised society.
Talks with Naxalite groups in Andhra Pradesh—who have spread to 155 districts which is almost 25 per cent of the country—will have an adverse effect on the economy, particularly in contiguous areas like Jharkhand, Maharashtra and other states.
In Andhra Pradesh itself, the information technology success and all the development remained focused around Hyderabad while Naxalism spread to all other districts. It is clear now that the ruling party used these groups to win the election.
As a result of which a ‘‘peace process’’ has started that allows Naxalite groups to brandish their weapons in the open. They have not given up the path of armed struggle, continuing their politics through an antidiluvean ideology.
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Never has a state returned to peace through negotiations with violent groups. Only when violence is put down firmly and strongly, is there any chance for peace. The prime example being that of Punjab and before that in Mizoram.
In any case, the policy of negotiations is particular to Andhra Pradesh. But how can such a policy be followed which has no universal appeal, particularly to states that do not have Congress governments? You cannot have one meeting and say this is the official policy on dealing with Naxalite groups.
This kind of official line will only give fillip to violence. After all, Left-wing extremism is a national security problem, not merely a law-and- order issue for Andhra Pradesh.
Further, what message does this send out to the rest of the world? On the one hand, we want foreign direct investment to flow into the country and are encouraging multinational companies to come here while at the same time, we let these groups roam openly with weapons.
Basic law and order is part of the infrastructure needed for investment and economic growth. What’s the use of a road where people and vehicles cannot move freely? How are business and industry going to grow when there are parts of the country you cannot travel because of fear of being attacked?
We are always proclaiming before the rest of the world that India is the world’s largest democracy. A democracy believes in universal adult franchise. Naxalite groups are totally against this. For them, a true state is one where there is the dictatorship of the proletariat. So where is the ideological basis for entering into negotiations?
Moreover, have negotiations ever succeeded? Assam was an, otherwise, peaceful state till we signed the AASU pact. This gave rise to a chain of violence, different armed groups have come up, there are regular attacks by them while the guilty are still in power.
It’s a strange paradox that while there is this move to negotiate with Naxalite groups in Andhra Pradesh, we are providing every assistance to Nepal to fight the Maoists. And instead of laying down arms before the police, these Naxalite groups have come out openly in support of Maoists in Nepal.
All this has only demoralised police officers who have been genuinely concerned with establishing law and order. Whenever there are such moves to negotiate, those officers who are apologists for these violent groups and their acts come to fore. This will happen again. Good officers will come back, but only when there is urgency to restore law and order.
Gill is a member of the National Police Advisory Board and the founding president of the Institute of Conflict Management in New Delhi. He headed anti-militancy operations in Punjab as DGP until 1995.
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