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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Aggressive governance

To fight left-wing extremism, strengthen local policing and undertake development work on war footing.

By: Editorial |
Updated: April 6, 2021 9:14:05 am
The slideThe cost of the many battles that Taslima Nasreen has fought over the years — for her right to speak against fundamentalist Islam and patriarchy — has been exile and banishment since 1994.

At least 22 dead and 30 injured. The massive inter-departmental operation involving the STF, DRG and District Force of the Chhattisgarh Police, CRPF and its COBRA unit, has resulted in the largest numbers of casualties at the hands of left-wing extremists in four years. The attack in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district — which borders Sukma and Bijapur and is a major centre for the Maoists — points to the challenge. First, the mission to capture Battalion No. 1 Area Commander Hidma, among the most-wanted Maoists, highlights that local intelligence networks and policing must be strengthened to deal with extremism. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Bastar bears testimony that aggressive governance cannot be limited to merely the security response.

While central forces like the CRPF — and its COBRA unit in particular — are better equipped than their provincial counterparts, there is no silver bullet. For one, local terrain and the nature of the guerrilla insurgency would require them to receive special training. Second, operations need to be based on solid local intelligence, and in most cases, smaller strike forces. Large operations like the one to apprehend Hidma are difficult to keep under wraps. In every state that has had some success in containing the Maoist insurgency, a strong network of local thanas, led by capable officers with the political backing of the state government, has led the charge. It is only with such a local network providing strong human intelligence that the extra manpower of the central forces can be put to good use. To root out the Naxal insurgency from Bastar and its adjoining areas, the first step has to be to build such a network.

The area in which the attack took place is among the least developed in the country. According to the 2011 census, Bijapur and Sukma districts are second and third from the bottom in terms of literacy. The region lacks basic infrastructure in terms of roads and communication. It is this abdication of the state in terms of both law and order and welfare that makes the Bastar belt so fecund for left-wing extremism. The lack of infrastructure also makes the job of the police and security forces that much more difficult. What is needed, most of all, is political will from the central and state governments. Acts of violence against security forces must, of course, be dealt with. But to really address the problem, development work too must take place on a war footing.

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