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Left-Wing Extremism

The PM called it the "single biggest internal security challenge" confronting the country. Chhattisgarh, for example, is the most violent state after J&K

Left-Wing Extremism

Accounting for 27 per cent of the total fatalities in India during 2006, Left Wing extremism constitutes what Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh rightly described as the "single biggest internal security challenge" confronting the country. The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), today, exercises dominance over a large swathe of the country’s territory, and carries out attacks on security forces and symbols of governance at will. Chhattisgarh has now emerged as one of the principal centres of a co-ordinated Maoist movement. Indeed, with 361 fatalities in 2006, Chhattisgarh is the most violent state after Jammu and Kashmir. While the number of Maoist-affected states in the country is currently pegged at 14, the movement has demonstrated the intent and potential to spread across the length and breadth of the country. The Maoist threat has now overtaken all other insurgencies in the country – at least from the perspective of geographical spread, with various levels of Maoist mobilisation and violence currently afflicting at least 165 districts in 14 states. Over the past years, moreover, while fatalities in various other insurgencies have tended to decline consistently, fatalities related to the Maoist conflict have continuously augmented.

A total of 742 persons died in Maoist-related violence across the country in 2006, up from 717 in 2005. Chhattisgarh in 2006 emerged as the worst affected state – dramatically displacing Andhra Pradesh – and the Dantewada district was by far the worst off within the state.

According to the Union Home Ministry’s Status Paper on Internal Security, the marginal increase in casualties of civilians is mainly due to high violence levels in Chhattisgarh and to some extent in Jharkhand. The paper noted that, "Chhattisgarh alone accounts for 49.30 per cent of total incidents and 59.80 per cent of total casualties in the current year." There is, however, no assessment of the reasons for the decline in violence in other states – other than Andhra Pradesh, where focused Police action has resulted in a flight of the Maoists – and there is reason to believe that the decline in violence is a Maoist decision, rather than any significant gain on the part of the state Forces. Maoist efforts are evidently and increasingly focused on political mobilization and consolidation over wider areas.

It is useful to recognize, within this context, that the threat of the Maoists is "not limited to the areas of immediate violence, nor does this threat vanish if violence is not manifested at a particular location for a specific period of time. It is in the complex processes of political activity, mass mobilisation, arms training and military consolidation that the Maoist potential has to be estimated." Significantly, the CPI-Maoist has established "Regional Bureaus across a mass of nearly two-thirds of the country's territory, and these regions are further sub-divided into state, special zonal and special area committee jurisdictions, where the processes of mobilisation have been defined and allocated to local leaders. This structure of organisation substantially reflects current Maoist plans, but does not exhaust their perspectives or ambitions. There is further evidence of preliminary activity for the extension of operations to new areas including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Meghalaya, beyond what is reflected in the scope of the regional, zonal and state committees." Maoists have also articulated a new strategy to target urban centres in their "Urban Perspective Document", drawing up guidelines for "working in towns and cities", and for the revival of a mobilization effort targeting students and the urban unemployed. Two principal 'industrial belts' have been identified as targets for urban mobilisation: Bhilai-Ranchi-Dhanbad-Calcutta and Mumbai-Pune-Surat-Ahmedabad. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil told the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) on December 5, 2006, that Maoists were now planning to target important installations in major cities of India. Patil said "Like forests provide safe hideouts to Naxalites in tribal areas, the cities also provide them cover. Taking advantage of this, they plan to target major installations in cities."

The Maoist menace continues to expand, except where it has been confronted by coherent use of force – as is presently and substantially the case in Andhra Pradesh, where area domination exercise under the leadership of the local Police, backed by the armed reserve forces and the Grey Hounds, and a well-developed intelligence network, have succeeded in beating back the Naxalites to a large extent, and have forced their leadership into flight. The Andhra Pradesh Police has long prepared for this confrontation and has consistently developed its capacities to engage with the Maoists in their ‘strongholds’, though it has been repeatedly inhibited by political constraints from effective action. These constraints appear, for the moment, to have been lifted.

Other states, however, remain far from prepared. Indeed, a consistent feature across all the major Maoist-affected states is that they have extraordinarily poor policing capacities. As against a national average of 122 police personnel per 100,000 population, and some peaceful states with ratios as high as 854/100,000 (Mizoram) and 609/100,000 (Sikkim), Bihar has just 57, Jharkhand – 85, Chhattisgarh – 103 and Orissa – 90, and even Andhra Pradesh, just 98 per 100,000 population. Worse, there is ample evidence that large proportions of the Central allocation for police modernisation and up-gradation remain unspent or are being diverted or mis-spent. Utilization of funds has been particularly poor over the years in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

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