Context: The killing of 22 security personnel by Maoists in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh serves as a grim reminder that left-wing insurgency continues to be one of the biggest internal security threats for the country.
Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) in India
- LWE situation is the most serious internal threat facing the country.
- The ideology of left-wing extremism is deeply influenced by Marxist and other communist and socialist practices.
- The naxal movement came to Andhra Pradesh with peasants' revolt in tribal dominated Srikalulam region in December 1968.
- It soon spread to coastal areas and later to Telangana and Rayalaseema districts.
- LWE organizations are the groups that try to bring change through violent revolution. They are against democratic institutions and use violence to subvert the democratic processes at ground level.
- These groups prevent the developmental processes in the least developed regions of the country & try to misguide the people by keeping them ignorant of current happenings.
- A significant change came about with the merger of the People's War Group and the MCC to form the CPI (Maoist) in 2004.
- Thus, there had been a fusion of the ideology with the armed groups, both coming together for the first time.
LWE affected states:
- As many as nine Indian states are bearing the brunt of naxalism.
- Of these, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are worst-affected while Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are partially affected.
- Andhra Pradesh and Bihar remain the hot-bed of PWG and MCC operations.
- The ultra-leftist groups active in Bihar are - The most dreaded 'Maoist Communist Centre', CPI(ML) Liberation, CPI (ML) Peoples War, Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti, CPI(ML) Janashakti, CPI(ML) Towards New Democracy and small groups like Santosh Rana group, Shantipal group, Kanu Sanyal group and Jeetender group.
- People's War Group, formed by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah (KS) on April 22, 1980, is the most dominant naxalite force in Andhra Pradesh.
- In the past few years, Maoist violence is receding.
- The government has, in fact, had some major successes in the form of arrests and surrender of important Maoist leaders.
- But this drop could be the result of a “tactical withdrawal” by the Maoists.
- The attack should thus serve as a wake-up call to those who had begun to get complacent about the Maoist threat.
Key strengths of Maoists:
- The Maoist strategy is that not only do they oppose development, development as they see it, development in a parliamentary democracy, but also they take advantage of this feeling of neglect in remote underdeveloped areas
- It appears that Maoists continue to hold on to their key strengths which include:
- a robust and efficient intelligence network;
- the devolution of authority to local commanders;
- an ability to quickly readjust their strategy;
- extensive support from local tribes and the ability to organise them into a tribal militia for short-term tactical purposes and
- domination of the local landscape.
The Counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy of India
- India began using the COIN strategy with its first full-blown insurgency in Nagaland in the 1950s.
- People-centric approach: One strategy says that given the Maoist insurgency posturing itself as a “people’s war”, the mandate is for a people-centric approach of “winning hearts and minds” that is built on the notions of competitive state-building to address economic and governance deficiencies.
- Enemy-centric approach: The other strategy argues that an enemy-centric approach predicated on kinetic operations is best suited for the Maoist insurgency, where the fear of the population seceding from India is remote.
- Most of the states have raised special forces on the lines of Greyhounds, and are being given rigorous training in “counter-guerrilla” tactics and jungle warfare.
- Greyhounds: It was raised in 1989 as an elite anti-naxal force.
- Mixed strategy: But the Andhra government based its COIN strategy on a judicious mix of the enemy-centric and population-centric approaches.
- The successes achieved by the Greyhounds, Andhra’s elite special forces, could only be consolidated through the robust implementation of short-gestation-period developmental works in the Maoist-affected rural areas.
- Moreover, the erstwhile state is also the first state to have a comprehensive surrender-cum-rehabilitation policy.
- Surrender and rehabilitation policies: After the 2014 guidelines of the central government were brought out, many states have crafted attractive surrender and rehabilitation policies.
- A surrender and rehabilitation policy only works when there is sustained military pressure on the Maoists.
- SAMADHAN: It stands for
- S- Smart Leadership,
- A- Aggressive Strategy,
- M- Motivation and Training,
- A- Actionable Intelligence,
- D- Dashboard Based KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and KRAs (Key Result Areas)
- H- Harnessing Technology,
- A- Action plan for each Theatre, and
- N- No access to Financing.
- This doctrine is the one-stop solution for the LWE problem. It encompasses the entire strategy of government from short-term policy to long-term policy formulated at different levels.
Way forward: Indian counterinsurgency has to work with a dual objective of defeating the insurgents militarily and fully quell the insurgent impulses.
- Superior state guerilla: A Maoist guerrilla can only be countered by a state guerrilla.
- The operating environment of these special forces has to demonstrate the employment of superior tactics to defeat the insurgents, something which at times seems lacking. Besides, the Maoists have mastered the art of exploiting the grey zone areas.
- The jungles around the interstate borders have always been the preferred hiding spaces for the Maoists.
- Synergy between states: States must do more to synergise their efforts by launching coordinated operations, thereby denying Maoists any space for manoeuvrability.
- These efforts need to be supplemented by well-crafted development schemes. Proper implementation and timely disbursal of benefits add to the credibility of the government policies.
- It is also important to segregate the population from the insurgents both operationally and ideologically.
- Employing mixed strategy: This will need institutional overhauls.
- The conflict over the distribution of resources can be mended with economic development, but the bigger challenge would be to create a system where the tribal population feels that the government is representative, not repressive.
- Opening negotiation channels and policies like surrender and rehabilitation can give such a representative sense to the rebels that the government cares for them if they (rebels) are willing to shun the violent path.
The asymmetry in the distribution of power cannot solely be ironed out by just economic policies, it is critically important to create a system where the distribution of power is not controlled by the traditional elite.