June 14, 2021
Home  »  Website  »  National  » Opinion  »  'Living In A Fool's Paradise'
For The Record

'Living In A Fool's Paradise'

'Will all those, who write 33-page articles, be allowed to write 33-page articles? Will there be a magazine to publish a 33-page article?' asks the home minister as he reveals that the government is examining whether "special forces" and "aircraft c

Google + Linkedin Whatsapp
Follow Outlook India On News
'Living In A Fool's Paradise'
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Extracts from the home minister's reply to the discussion in the Rajya Sabha on his statement of April 15th

I had an opportunity to speak in the Lok Sabha. Much of that has been reported. So, I shall keep my reply brief. About three or four months ago, there was a discussion in this House on the internal security situation, and in my reply, I did devote a fair amount of time to deal with the naxalite situation. I am sure many hon. Members recall that debate. Let me go back and trace the evolution of our policy to deal with the menace of Left Wing extremism. As far as my party is concerned, in 2006, at the AICC session, my party adopted a resolution that said inter alia, and I quote:

"The Indian National Congress views with concern the growing incidence of naxalite-associated violence in parts of India. The party urges the UPA Government to give this matter highest priority and believes that this has to be addressed as a serious law and order issue, but with underlying socio-economic causes as well. Clarity and firmness in handling the threat of violence does not foreclose the possibility of a dialogue in appropriate situations."

Therefore, as far as we are concerned, we have kept in mind three basic principles. Firstly, it raises a serious law and order situation. It has to be dealt with as such. Secondly, one must not be unmindful of the socio-economic causes. Thirdly, the door for dialogue is always open provided the conditions for dialogue are acceptable and there is a situation which allows a dialogue to take place. 

After I took over I began to address the issue of Left-Wing Extremism and we've had so far three conferences of Chief Ministers. The first two conferences of Chief Ministers were followed by a special meeting with Chief Ministers of naxal-affected States. I have with me the minutes of the meetings that we held with the Chief Ministers of naxal-affected States. I don't wish to go into it. But let me tell you that, after a very exhaustive discussion, all Chief Ministers and the Governor of Jharkhand -- Jharkhand was under President's rule at that time -- broadly agreed with the approach that we had placed before the meeting and endorsed it. In fact, I made an opening statement at the conference of Chief Ministers on 17th August, 2009 and I said in that statement and I want to quote:

"The third challenge is left-wing extremism, naxalism. On more than one occasion the Prime Minister rightly cautioned the nation that Left-Wing Extremism posed the single biggest internal security challenge to India. In the last few months, the CPM Maoists stepped up its attacks on the Indian State and on the Indian people. I would like to draw your attention to a document put up by the CPM Maoists on June 12, 2009 which is titled "Post-election situation -- our task". Anyone reading that document would have no illusion about the nature and gravity of the threat. Let me make our policy stance clear. We believe in the two-pronged approach of development and police action. However, the naxalites are anti development and have targeted the very instruments of development, school buildings, roads, telephone towers, etc. They know that development will mean the masses, especially, the poor Tribals, will be weaned away from the grip of the naxalites. Hence these deliberate attacks on the developmental activities. Our response, therefore, will be police action to wrest control of the territory that is now dominated by the naxalites, restoration of civil administration and undertaking developmental activities. Meanwhile, we will encourage the State Governments to talk to the naxalites, both individuals and local units, on condition that they give up their misconceived armed liberation struggle. Let our message to the naxalites be clear. We will talk, we will act, we will restore order and we will undertake developmental activities. I am happy to report that all the naxal-affected States have resolved to confront and overcome the challenges of CPM Maoists and later this evening I shall hold a separate meeting with the Governor and the Chief Ministers of those States".

We have not swerved from this path. Our policy remains the same. It is a serious law and order problem, and, therefore, quite rightly, the Chief Ministers have asserted that it is their right and their responsibility to deal with the problem. The Central Government provides Paramilitary Forces, intelligence and other assistance to them to deal with the problem. The goal is to restore the civil administration which is not there. And if anyone of you thinks that there is some kind of a civil administration in these areas, I think we are harbouring an illusion. In many of these areas, there is simply no civil administration worth the name. So we have to restore the civil administration and then take development of these areas. It is not a question of which comes first. If there is an opportunity with the district administration to do some developmental activities, certainly they must do it even if the place is infested with the CPI (Maoist). But where it is not possible to do anything, where it is not possible to build the roads, where it is not possible to build a school building, where it is not possible to take electricity, surely, then the first thing that has to be done is to regain control over the area and restore the civil administration. We have not swerved from this path. This remains our policy. It will be our policy and I intend to continue to work with this policy. 

Why do I say that the CPI (Maoist) target developmental activities? I have with me their targets in the last four or five years. Their principle target is the security forces. Their second target is, whoever he is, they call him police informer. They will kill a party cadre, they will kill an SPO and they will kill a village Mukhiya and then name him a police informer. Their third target is infrastructure. In 2009 alone, they have demolished 71 school buildings and 23 Panchayat bhawans; two power plants were attacked; 67 telephone exchanges or mobile towers were attacked and demolished; there were 46 attacks on railway properties and 17 attacks on specific industrial establishments. Now people say, "Talk to Maoists". I will come to 'talks' in a moment. Let me make an offer. It perhaps took five or six or ten years to build a school building in that district. You know how it is in each of our districts. If an old school building is dilapidated, how long does it take to get the money, to get the plan approved and to get the work started to build a school building? I am sure these 71 school buildings in these States came up after five or six years of efforts by the local MLA or the local MP or the local Panchayat leader. These 71 school buildings have been demolished. This year, so far, nine have been demolished. This is up to the end of March. In April alone, more school buildings have been demolished in Bihar, in the Jamui district. If the Maoists are really pro poor, let me ask this question: we will find money and I will beg, borrow or steal money to rebuild these 71 school buildings, but can anyone guarantee that those buildings will not be attacked again? Will anyone, any of these human rights organizations, any of these NGOs stand up and tell the people of this country, "Rebuild these 71 school buildings; we assure you that the CPI (Maoist) will not attack any more school buildings?"

Let me persuade all the telephone companies, including the BSNL, to rebuild the 74 telephone towers and Exchanges. Will any NGO, will any Human Rights Organisation, be willing to assure us that these towers will not be demolished? I think we must understand the nature of the CPM (Maoist). I have said this before; the other speakers have said it. Their goal is the seizure of political power and the overthrow of the established authority of the State. Their method is Armed Liberation Struggle, and their instrument is the People's Liberation Guerilla Army which, under the June 12 document, they hope to convert it into a regular Liberation Army. They want to overthrow the Parliamentary system. And how should Parliament respond to this challenge? I think the Human Rights Organisations and the NGOs are living in a fool's paradise. If the CPM (Maoist) overthrows the established authority and seizes power, will they allow any Human Rights Organisation to function in this country? Will they allow any NGO to function in this country? Will there be a Parliament? Will all those, who write 33-page articles, be allowed to write 33-page articles? Will there be a magazine to publish a 33-page article? I think the gravity of the situation must be recognized, and I am willing to be advised, as I have been advised, if necessary, what cross-corrections we need to make, what fine-tuning we need to make. But there is no escape from the fact that the challenge has to be met squarely and fearlessly. It is a serious law and order problem. It is also a problem where we have to address the underlying socio-economic issues.

In 2009 alone, they killed 211 people, and named them as police informers. This is not an indention of any of my agencies. Once they kill somebody, they issue a statement saying, "We killed him because he is a police informer", and simply counting the number that 211 people were killed in 2009, and they were mainly police informers. In 2008, 170 people were killed, named as police informers. In this year, in the first quarter, 35 people have been killed and named as police informers. What happened in Dantewada will, of course, be inquired into by Shri Rammohan. As I said, in my statement, preliminary reports, preliminary inquiries, indicate that there has been a terrible failure of Command and Control. Please recall what I said. This is a battalion which was given to the Chhattisgarh Government. The 55th Battalion was given earlier, about three years earlier. Since its tour of duty was over, the 55th Battalion was replaced by the 62nd Battalion. The 62nd Battalion went into this area in the month of March-April, 2009. It was a battle-hardened battalion. It had earlier done a tour of duty in Bihar. Now, there are standard operating procedures. It was agreed in the Chief Minister's meeting, and we have reiterated this in the Standard Operating Procedures, that intra-State operations must be conducted under the direction of the DGP and the State Police, and inter-State operations will be conducted by the Special D.G., CRPF, because that requires coordination between States. The exercise, which was undertaken in Dantewada, was purely an intra-State exercise. Nevertheless, -- the reasons can be established only in the Inquiry -- only one Head Constable of the State Police accompanied them. Otherwise, all the officers and men belonged to the CRPF. They were ambushed and 74 of them were killed. The rescue party was sent, and the vehicle which accompanied the rescue party also came under attack. The driver and the Head Constable died.

So, we have got 76 lives were lost. The inquiry is under way. Shri Ram Mohan has promised me that he will give me the Report by the 25th of this month. He will debrief the seven injured jawans who have fortunately survived. He will do a thorough inquiry. He will examine the postmortem reports. He will examine the forensic evidence, and he will present the Report. I have requested him to fix responsibility from the Assistant Commandant right up to the Minister in the Ministry of Home Affairs. I said please fix responsibility who failed in his or her duty at every level from the Assistant Commandant right through to the Deputy Commandant, the Commandant, the DIG, the SP of the District, the DIG of that Zone from the State, the IG of the Zone, the DG(P), come up to the Special DG, the DG of the CRPF, and come right up to the Minister. Let him fix the responsibility where this failure of command and control took place. And as soon as that Report is available, we will draw the right conclusions, and I am sure, there will be an opportunity for me to share those conclusions with this House. But, until then I request that we suspend judgment. Let the Report come, and surely action will be taken based on that Report.

There have been instances in the past. We know that in 2006, 55 men of the Chhattisgarh Police were ambushed. That was the biggest tragedy until then. The famous Greyhounds were ambushed in Orissa, when they were crossing a dam; 34 people died. There was another ambush in 2009 in Chhattisgarh where about 27 people died. We have the Sealdah Massacre where 24 people died. I mean, no one asked anyone to resign or no one came forward to resign. When this happened, I was truly heart-broken, and, therefore, I felt that it was my moral responsibility to resign; I resigned. The Prime Minister and the UPA Chairperson rejected my resignation. I have received support from many sections of the House. I am grateful for the support. I am determined to continue to provide leadership in the Ministry of Home Affairs, and to our paramilitary forces, and I am determined to continue to extend assistance to the States to fight the menace of Naxalism. We have to do so with greater determination and without fear. Fear is the biggest enemy. We have to fight this menace fearlessly. 

At the same time, let me repeat, we must show greater compassion, greater concern for the poor, greater dedication in taking development to the places where the Naxals seem to have some dominance. We are assisting the State Governments in a number of ways. We have got the security related expenditure, and the special assistance that is being provided to the States for modernization of police force. We also have a Special Task Force under the Cabinet Secretary looking at these 34 districts. Huge amount of money is being given under various programmes. Extra money is being given under various programmes. Unfortunately, not all the money is being spent. We have programmes that applied throughout the country applying these 34 districts also, and, additional money is being given. I do not wish to read the figures. But, I wish hon. Members will please ask their State Governments how much of the money is being spent. We are giving money for Vidyutikaran Yojana; we are giving money under Drinking Water; we are giving money under Pradhan Mantri Sadak Yojana; we are giving special funds to these 34 districts. There is a Task Force under the Cabinet Secretary which monitors it. The Secretary, Planning Commission gets a weekly report, and she updates it every month. But what she has shown me not all the money is being spent. I think money must be spent. We must take development to the extent possible to these areas, and as and when our security forces gain control over these areas, we must rush in development. That is our approach; that will continue to be our approach.

There are some recent developments which are heartwarming. As you know, CPI (Maoists) has set up some front organizations and carries on its activities through front organizations. The PCPA in West Bengal is a front organization. They have now set up a militia organization called Siduka. What is happening is, in Many States, tribals, villagers affected by Maoist activities are also setting up their own organizations. This is not to be confused with the controversial Salwa Judum. That is a controversial matter. For example, in Jharkhand, villagers in East Singhbhum district and in district Saraikela-Kharsawan have formed a Gram Ganarajya Panchayat Parishat. They are organizing mass meetings and they are opposing the free run of the Maoists. In Orissa, villagers in district Sudargarh have also risen against the Maoists following harassment by Maoist cadres including demand for villagers' participation in Maoists' armed actions, assaulting of villagers for maintaining links with the police and demanding that one person from each house should join the CPI (Maoists).

In Chhattisgarh, tribals under the banner of Ma Danteshwari Bastar Adivasi Swabhiman Manch have protested against the activities of pro-Maoist organizations. So, it is not as though the people who live in fear are not revolting against what the Maoists are doing. It is still at an incipient stage. But, clearly people are beginning to recognize that it is not the Maoists who are going to give them freedom or development.

I went to Lalgarh. This is pretty obvious. They had a host of complaints against the State Government. I am not here to say whether the complaints are right or wrong. They had many complaints. But, they immediately added that the only one who can bring them development was the State Government. They are pretty clear in their perception that the Maoists are not going to bring them any development. Their poser to me was, "We have had no development, nobody visited us, the Maoists are here on the rampage with their guns, nobody to protect us, what are we supposed to do?" Really, that is the question that we have to address. If we can protect the people, surely they will rise against the Maoist oppression. If we can win their confidence, take the civil administration to that area, opportunities will open up for bringing development to that area. As I said, this is a complex task, a task which I believe the State Governments have to address. As I said in my statement, there is no question of it in my mind that the primary responsibility lies with the State Government. At the same time, I assure you that the Central Government is ready and willing to assist the State Government in every manner possible in dealing with the matter as a law and order issue as well as for developmental matters.

These 74+1+1 will be paid compensation. I have instructed that the compensation must be paid by the end of this month. We have already worked out the compensation. The families have been contacted. They have been asked to name the next of kin. We will give them adequate monetary compensation. The word 'adequate' may be misplaced. There can be nothing adequate to compensate loss of life, but we will give them substantial monetary compensation. The salary of the martyred jawan will be paid for the rest of his life if he had lived and retired; until the date of his retirement, that salary will be paid. And one member of the family will be given a job. The family will have to choose which member of the family will get the job. The State Governments are also giving compensation to those Jawans who come from that States. So, that will be in addition to what the Central Government gives as compensation. I am grateful to the Member for the broad support they have given to me and to the Government. We will continue to remain focussed on this problem. This problem will remain with us for many, many years. We will be able to substantially contain and control this menace in about two to three years. We have to set for ourselves a time horizon. No Government, no Home Minister can say that we cannot contain this for the next twenty years. That is not the message that we can give to our police forces and to our security forces. We will have to set for ourselves a time horizon, we will have to contain this menace in the next two to three years and we will have to bring development to these areas. Yes, remnants will remain. 

Kanu Sanyal and Charu Majumdar started a movement in 1967. But long after they gave up, one of them died and one of them disowned the movement, the remnants remain. But these remnants will have to be addressed. But a determined, organised armed liberation struggle cannot be allowed in this country which strikes the very root of democracy, which strikes the very root of our concept of a nation, therefore, it has to be squarely and fearlessly met. Finally, a word about talks and I know that to talk about talks now seems misplaced, but, nevertheless the door must be kept opened for talks. There is this bizarre interview given by Koteshwar Rao and even more bizarre interview given by Azad which was published in one of the newspapers in a sanitised version. I would urge Members not to read the sanitised version but go to the website and read the unexpurgated version of the interview and the choicest abuses that are being used in that interview. Be that as it may, what is our condition? I know that they will not lay down arms. I am not so naïve as to believe that they will lay down arms immediately. But how do you expect the Government of India to talk to a militant group unless they give up violence? Should they not say, "We give up violence"? Once they give up violence, our policy is that we will set in motion a process of talks. The State Governments can talk to them. The Central Government will facilitate those talks. If the Central Government has to join the talks, the Central Government is willing to join the talks. But the condition is that they should not indulge in violence. On the last occasion they gave this offer suddenly one day that they are willing for talks. But within three hours of that announcement, there was an incident in Bengal, the police patrol party was attacked, the police patrol party had to retaliate and one of them was killed. Within 24 hours there was a series of incidents. 

How can we talk under the shadow of the gun, under the shadow of violence? Therefore, I repeat that we will facilitate talks with the CPM Maoists provided they say, "We will give up violence." At least, as long as talks take place, there should be no violence, there should be no killing, there should be no abductions, and there should be no targeting the infrastructure. At the end of talks, if there is progress, then, we can move on. But at the moment, from what I gathered from the interviews, they are unwilling and unprepared to give up violence. They say, "To ask us to give up violence is absurd. We believe in armed liberation struggle, so how do we give up violence?" Anyway, I reiterate Government's policy. We will deal with this as a serious law and order problem and face the challenge fearlessly. We will also address the underlying socio-economic causes. The door for dialogue is open provided they give up violence. With these words, I am grateful to the hon. Members. I will come back to this House at an appropriate time when I have the Report of the Rammohan Committee. Thank you.

***

Let me briefly clarify some issues on which the hon. Members have sought clarifications. Alienation of tribal land and mining licenses granted in some of these areas are, indeed, two very important issues which the CPI (Maoists) capitalizes and agitates for. There is no denying the fact. In fact, in Orissa, the major issue is that the tribal land is now gone into the hands of non-tribals. The Orissa Government has been advised more than once to apply the Orissa laws to see that the tribal land is restored to tribals.

Mining licences have been granted. Under the law as it stands today, it is the State Government which recommends grant of mining leases and the Central Government's approval is taken; MoUs have been entered into. But we have said that these matters can be brought to the table and discussed and solutions can be found. But it is not as if the CPI(Maoists) activities are present only in areas where tribal lands have been alienated and the mining licences have been granted. What is there in Lalgarh? There is no mining licence in Lalgarh. There is no mineral in Lalgarh. Why is that district today the centre of Maoist activity in Bengal for a while? These are indeed issues that have to be addressed and solutions found. That can only be found if they come to the table. That is why in an interview that I gave to Tehelka I said, 'you abjure violence, agree to talks and we can discuss anything under the Sun, including the MoUs that you are concerned about, including issues like alienation of tribal land.' It is difficult to make a very accurate estimate of the number of cadres. The principal organization that is now leading this armed liberation struggle is the CPI (Maoists). This was formed after the merger of the PWG and MCC in 2004. They are now one organization called CPI(Maoists) and 92-95 per cent of all depredations are committed by the CPI(Maoists). There are some splinter groups. There are internecine quarrels among the splinter groups too. But the depredations that we are talking about, the vast majority of them, close to 95 per cent, are committed by the CPI (Maoists). They have a Politburo; they have a Central Committee; they have a Central Military Commission; and they have a People's Liberation Guerilla Army. They organize themselves into battalions, companies and dalams. Four of the Polit Bureau members are in custody; four former members of the Polit Bureau are also in the custody; nine Central Commission members have been arrested. ...(Interruptions)... There are 14 Polit Bureau Members. Therefore, it is not as though we are not aware of their structure. But to make a very accurate estimate of the number is difficult. We think there are about 10,000-15,000 armed cadres. But they also have the support of what they call the Jan Militia, people whom they have armed with local weapons. That number perhaps runs to 15,000 or 20,000. But these are in the estimates; nobody has made a headcount of who these people are.

There is no proposal to use the Army in these areas; nor is there any proposal to use the Air Force in these areas. What is being examined is whether some special forces have to be used to supplement the work of the trained paramilitary forces and whether aircraft can be used for purposes of surveillance, logistics, supplies and evacuation. There is no proposal to use the Army or the Air Force against the Naxals.

Then there is a question about cooperation. The decision to launch this operation on April 4 was a joint decision taken by the IG of the State, Mr. Longkumar, the DIG of that region, Mr. SRP Kalluri and the DIG of the CRPF, Mr. Nalin Parbhat. There is a joint decision. Now, what went wrong, who is responsible will come out in the inquiry.

I don't think this is an appropriate time to go into the numbers and details of who has killed, who has been killed, etc. These are very controversial matters. We have the numbers. This is not the place to debate these numbers. We are sorry that cadres of more than one Party and cadres of the two principal parties in Bengal are being killed. In fact, I have raised this with the Chief Minister of Bengal and I have said, these inter-Party clashes, killings of party cadres by the Maoists must come to an end.

We have discussed this with the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister has said that he is equally concerned. These numbers are alarming numbers. He is equally concerned. He has promised me that it was his intention to put an end to inter-Party clashes.

As I said, we are a robust democracy. We must allow for shades of opinion. It is the Government's duty to evolve a policy after listening to every shade of opinion, a policy that has the support of Parliament. I believe, what I have said today, the policy that I have outlined today, has a very large measure of support in this House. I thank the Members. I think the debate should be concluded on that note that this policy has a large measure of support.

 


For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine
Next Story >>
Google + Linkedin Whatsapp

The Latest Issue

Outlook Videos