Naxalism in India

Context:

Recently, 15 Maoists were killed in the Konta area of Sukma district in Chhattisgarh.

Who are Naxals?

  • The Naxals are far-left radical communists whose military strategies are loosely based on the ideology of Chinese Revolutionary Mao Zedong.
  • The term ‘Naxal’ derives its name from the village Naxalbari of district Darjeeling in West Bengal, where the movement originated in 1967 under the leadership of Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal.
  • The Naxals strongly believe that the solution to social and economic discrimination is to overthrow the existing political system

Background:

First Phase:

  • 1967- Naxalbari uprising- a class conflict between peasants and landlords
  • 1969- Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI (ML)). Declared illegal by the government
  • Naxal violence was mainly concentrated in West Bengal, Bihar
  • 1971-The arrest and subsequent death of Charu Majumdar marked the end of the first phase of the movement.

Second Phase:

  • In 1980, the formation of the People’s War Group in Andhra Pradesh marked the revival of the movement and the beginning of its second phase.
  • In 1991, Naxalite extremism reached its peak
  • However, the movement faced a setback due to security operations taken across different states. Internal conflicts within the group further weakened the movement

Third Phase:

  • In 2000, the third phase of the movement began with the establishment of the People’s Guerilla Army
  • In 2004, the People’s War Group merged with Maoist Communist Centre and formed CPI (Maoist). This augmented the strength of the movement
  • The Naxalite movement spread across 233 districts in 20 states

Current Status:

  • According to a recently released report by the Home ministry, the number of districts affected with Naxal violence decreased from 106 to 90 between 2015 and 2018. The districts are spread across 11 states. 44 districts were taken out from the ‘Red Corridor’ and 8 new districts added

  • According to Home Ministry data, incidents related to Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) have declined from 1016 in 2016 to 851 in 2017.

Causes of Naxalite Problem:

Socio-economic:

  • Lack of human development-poor access to health, education, food insecurity
  • Cultural humiliation
  • Multifaceted forms of exploitation and social atrocities
  • Poverty and inequality in distribution of income
  • Poor land reforms and unequal distribution of land lead to rising discontent among tribals
  • Developmental projects, mining activities lead to large-scale displacement of tribals from their lands. However, there was no adequate rehabilitation.
  • Poor public infrastructure- lack of roads, communication. Further, forested areas aided developing guerrilla warfare
  • Political marginalization-The tribals have been largely unrepresented in mainstream politics

Governance:

  • Mismanagement of forest, forest policies with restriction for their livelihoods.
  • ineffective implementation of government schemes
  • Suppression of demands, protests
  • Government failed to reach out to people at times of crisis, maintain law and order. These made people indifferent to the democratic principles in poor tribal areas in India

Steps taken by the government:

Security:

  1. Operation Steeplechase- Launched in 1971, it was a joint Army-CRPF-Police operation which lead to the crackdown of many Naxalites
  2. Operation Green-Hunt: in 2009, Government deployed Commando Battalion for Resolute Actions (COBRA) against naxals. This operation popularly came to be known as Operation Green Hunt.
  • Andhra Pradesh has its specialised Greyhound commando force to tackle LWE
  1. Unified Command: In 2010, the Government established a Unified Command for inter-state coordination (in intelligence gathering, information sharing and police responses) between Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odhisa and West Bengal

Developmental:

Forest Rights Act, 2006: The Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest dwellers (Recognition of forest Rights) Act 2006 or the Forest Rights Act recognizes the rights of the scheduled tribes and forest dwellers

Additional Central Assistance (ACA) for the LWE affected districts (earlier known as Integrated Action Plan): The aim of this initiative is to provide public infrastructure and services in the LWE affected areas

Road Requirement Plan for LWE areas: The Road Requirement Plan (RRP) aims at improvement of road connectivity in most LWE affected districts

Civic Action Programme: The scheme aims to build bridges between the local population and the security forces.

The Left Wing Extremism affected States have been asked to effectively implement the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) on priority, which categorically assigns rights over minor forest produce to the Gram Sabhas.

ROSHNI: It is a special initiative under, Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana for training and placement of rural poor youth from LWE affected areas

Naxal Surrender-cum-Rehabilitation Programme: The programme provides for vocational training and incentives for surrender of weapons.

Recently the home minister announced a new strategy of SAMADHAN which 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

N- no access to financing.

Challenges:

  1. The Viriginius XAXA report highlighted the following developmental gaps which has the potential to promte extremisim in tribal areas:
  • Governors have been tardy in the matter of submission of reports under the provisions of Schedule 5 and in respecting the constitutional guarantee of autonomy to tribal areas.
  • The deliberations of the Tribes Advisory Councils have been found to be tokenistic, and the councils are filled with bureaucrats and ministers instead of representatives of tribal communities with effective voice.
  • Tribal land alienation and dispossession are at the crux of the crisis tribal communities face across the country — acquisition of land by the state using the principle of ‘eminent domain’; manipulation of records and incorrect interpretation of law; encroachment of tribal land by non-tribal people and immigrants; creation of national parks; and armed conflict resulting in forced migration and eviction from homelands.
  • Development projects lead to influx of outsiders to tribal areas, thus harm tribal interests by money landing activities and pollution.
  • Government agencies acquire land for “public purpose” but later transfer it to private companies at throwaway prices.
  1. Further, Naxal activities receive support and sympathy from local tribals and intellengisia from urban areas
  2. Poor infrastructure and connectivity has also aggravated the problem to tackle naxal activities in remote tribal areas
  3. Tribals have been caught in the middle of a conflict that has pitted the Maoists against government forces. Naxals recruit villagers for their operation and the latter become vulnerable to arrest and torture by government forces. Naxals have also been accused of killing and torturing villagers after accusing them of being police informers.
  4. Though LWE incidents have come down over the years, the present rising income and social inequality pose a serious challenge for the government to address growing discontent and extremism

Way Forward

  • Since the rise and spread of Naxalism is attributed to discontent arising out of economic and social discrimination, the government should primarily focus on social and economic development in the backward tribal areas
  • Government service delivery should be improved in tribal areas. Government should ensure statutory minimum wages, access to land and water sources, education and health
  • The government should initiate sincere dialogue with marginalized groups and the Naxalites and encourage surrender. Rehabilitation of the naxals and mainstreaming them into the society should be ensured
  • The government should strike a balance between development and interest of tribals. It’s important to recognize tribal rights on forests and ensure proper rehabilitation in case of any displacement

Best Practice: Columbia

  • The Colombia peace process was signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP).
  • It is based on comprehensive rural reform to ensure holistic development of the rural population, increasing and improving citizen participation in the government through strengthening democratic and electoral opportunities, and involving the victims of establishment or rebel atrocities in the actual negotiation process.
  • The peace process put an end to the conflict between Colombian government and FARC rebels
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