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Lalgarh and beyond

Since returning to power earlier this year, the UPA has been painting the Maoists as India’s greatest internal security threat.  What started out in Lalgarh as a protest movement against police excesses morphed into an armed popular uprising, thanks to the machinations of the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) and the CPI (Maoist).  The frontier regions of West Mindapore district were engulfed in a state of virtual People’s War; the Maoists wouldn’t have it any other way.  The Chairman would have been proud.

The glare of national media, as well as rumblings in New Delhi resulted in the ensuing counterinsurgency operation, which effectively began on June 18.  Lalgarh was retaken by local police, with the aid of the BSF, CPRF and paramilitary units by the end of day 3 of the operation. That the Maoists were able to exert control over Lalgarh in the first place is an indictment of the flippant, almost collusive approach to the problem by the ruling CPI(M).

This should come as no surprise: the CPI(M) is an ideologically bankrupt entity that has driven the two states where it has held power — Kerala and West Bengal — into virtual economic bankruptcy.  Prakash Karat and his ilk do an excellent job at effusively marketing their non-ideology, and taking potshots at other political parties, but when it comes to brass tacks, there is a virtual paralysis in decision making.

However, singling out the CPI(M) for the mess would be unfair.  Other prolific actors, such as the Trinamool Congress (TC) have played a very significant part in perpetuating the Maoist menace in the hinterland.  Ajai Sahni writes of a law and order/moral vacuum that provided an ideal festering ground for Maoist indoctrination and expansion:

Other players have, of course, been critical — the (TC) principal among the veritable armies of ‘useful idiots’ who have been taken along. The backdrop of this increasing ‘joint front activity’ has been augmenting violence and a consolidation of the Maoist presence across West Bengal — something the Communist Party of India — Marxist (CPI-M) state government has sought consistently to deny, underplay and cover up.

CPI(M)’s wishy-washiness when it came to declaring the Maoists as a “terrorist” organization makes one question whether or not they capable of acting in good faith with the interests of the nation at heart.  The need to declare the Maoists “terrorists” was dismissed with the excuse that they (the Maoists) needed to be countered “administratively”.  That’s rich, coming from a party that has left behind a trail of unmitigated administrative disasters in West Bengal and Kerala.

What the UPA must do upon the cessation of military operations is to ensure that there is a mechanism to redress the grievances of the local tribes.  Police excesses and human rights violations must be investigated, and those guilty of excesses must be brought to book.  A distinction must be made between the adivasis and the Maoists, who, for all intents and purposes had no stake in the anti-police agitation but the desire to indoctrinate and recruit tribals for their cause.

The law and order vacuum that allowed the Maoists to establish control over the 17 villages must be plugged.  The capabilities of security forces in the area need to be significantly enhanced, if only to act as a deterrent against any future contemplations of armed popular uprisings in the area.  B. Raman cautions that in doing so, the UPA needs to formulate strategies baring in mind the differences between Maoist terrorism and jihadi terrorism:

Firstly, the Maoist terrorism is an almost totally rural phenomenon, whereas jihadi terrorism is a largely urban phenomenon. Secondly, Maoist terrorism is a totally indigenous phenomenon motivated by domestic grievances and a domestic political agenda….Jihadi terrorism is a cross border threat to national security. Maoist terrorism is not.

The jihadis increasingly attack soft targets. The Maoists don’t. They mainly attack police stations, police lines, camps and arms storage depots of para-military forces in order to demoralise the security forces and capture their arms and ammunition. The repeated success of the Maoists in mounting large-scale surprise attacks on such hard targets speaks of the poor state of rural policing and intelligence set-up and the equally poor state of physical security.

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4 Responses to Lalgarh and beyond

  1. malay June 27, 2009 at 5:15 am #

    Ajaya sahni’s comment is not correct on Trinamool. He clearly do not have any understanding on the ground situation. He is writing on the basis of Moist leader speech and police report, not from the local independent sources. Trinamool, as this person basically belongs to that area, does not support moist and definitely does not take any help from moist. Actally the party is almost absent except in few pocket, can be easily understan from the recent loksabha election, in spite a sea change in vote, those area are still strong hold of CPIM. Yes local people having anti-CPIM mentality, does not feel any sadness if some CPIm leader killed by moist because they are suffering in the hand of CPIM cadre since last 30 years.

  2. thefiltercoffee June 27, 2009 at 10:11 am #

    Well, if he’s writing on the basis of information provided by the Maoist leader and a police report, shouldn’t there be some sense of reliability to that information? To be fair to Ajai Sahni, he’s not the only one saying there’s a link between TC and CPM. TC’s denials are only natural, and akin to Pak’s denials over its support to LeT/JeM/HuM etc.

  3. malay July 2, 2009 at 1:11 am #

    Well, except CPIM and some of the channels funded by them, who else is telling that TC and CPIM help each other? Trinamool is totally absent except few bazar, like sarenga, raipur and goyaltore. tribal are either supporter of CPIM or Jharkhand party.
    Comparing this with pakistan, totally absurd and imaginative.
    We should understand local socio-economic situation and local people suffering after 30 years long CPIm instead of accepting the articulate talking of central leaderships of CPIM. This blind faith on CPIm has ruined the bengal completely and Moist takes the role of oppostion in absence of main sream parties in the area. Around 2000 BJP beame very strong on those area, but they failed to protect from CPIM misrule and people at last drifted to moist, so one can see huge support towards moist in recent time.

  4. thefiltercoffee July 2, 2009 at 1:14 pm #

    @malay: I only compared it to Pakistan to show that denial does not equal no culpability.

    As far as the way forward…I agree with you. India must address grievances of the tribes, and also ensure that police excesses are brought to book, to ensure that popular uprisings aided by the Maoists don’t spring up like Lalgarh and Nandigram.

    At the same time, it is equally important to bolster our counter insurgency (COIN) capability in WB/Jharkhand to address all eventualities.

    As for the CPI(M), it is for the people of Bengal to rise against them and let their opposition to them be demonstrated in the polls.

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