Naxal insurgency: Fighting extremism with development

Carved out of Madhya Pradesh on 1st November 2000, Chhattisgarh is the tenth largest state in India. It has also been the epicentre of the Naxal-Maoist insurgency that has plagued India for decades.

In 1965-66, Communist leader Charu Majumdar wrote various articles based on Marx-Lenin-Mao thought during the period, which later came to be known as ‘Historic Eight Documents’ and formed the basis of the Naxalite movement. In 1967 the CPM participates in West Bengal Assembly elections and for the first time a coalition government with Bangla Congress headed by Ajoy Mukherjee as the chief minister. Majumder thinks the CPM has betrayed the ‘revolution’. On 18th May 1967, in a small village called Naxalbari in West Bengal, a section of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) led by communist leaders Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal initiated an uprising and armed struggle to redistribute land to the landless.

A tribal youth, who had a judicial order to plough his land, was attacked by “goons” of local landlords on 2nd March earlier that year. The tribals retaliated and started forcefully capturing the land. The new government, with the support of Indira Gandhi, led government at Centre, started a crackdown on the uprising and in 72 days, a police sub-inspector and 9 tribals were killed. Soon the ideology garnered support and state units of CPI (M) in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir and some sections in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh joined in.

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On 22nd April 1969, a new party, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML) was born with Charu Majumdar as Secretary. Artists and writers, including Varavara Rao, who is recently put under house arrest in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case, formed Viplava Rachayitala Sangham (Revolutionary Writers’ Association), popularly known by its acronym Virasam, which propagates and supports Naxalite ideology and practice.

Following the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the Army cracks down on the ultra-left movement in Bengal. Later in 1972, Charu Majumdar is arrested in Kolkata where he dies in custody a few days later following a massive heart attack. This is when the CPI(ML) suffers and eventually collapses. In July 1978 it is reconstituted and is renamed CPI (ML) Liberation. Various fragmentation and reconstructions take place over the years. In 2004, CPI (Maoist), a rebel group comprised of the PWG (People’s War Group) and the MCC (Maoist Communist Centre) was formed and thousands of people have been killed in the ongoing clashes between CPI (Maoists) and the government every year since 2005. The movement which is active in mostly tribal areas in, but not limited to, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, has displaced as many as 12 million people till now.

However, over the last four years, the multipronged approach adopted by the Narendra Modi government has come as the death knell for the Left-wing terrorism. Extensive and targeted action by the security forces on Naxals combined with wide-spread infrastructure development and providing access to local tribal populations to education and financial development and this has been showing great results in Naxal infested areas. Under the Centre’s scheme for Left-wing extremism (LWE) affected areas, 1326 km of roads have been constructed in Bastar, Rajnandgaon and Surguja areas in Chhattisgarh over and above the 995 new bridges of which 138 are in Bastar. In December 2017, Chhattisgarh PWD Minister had said that the annual budget of the PWD department, which was Rs 773 crore in 2003-04, had increased to Rs 7795 crore in 2016-17. The construction of roads and bridges in the Maoist-hit Sukma has been one of the major achievements of the government.

In an effort to expedite development push in the Red corridor, the Centre, in May last year, had decided to spend a whopping Rs 11,000 crore for providing road connectivity to 44 Maoist-affected districts, including Chhattisgarh’s Sukma. The infrastructure development has brought basic facilities like education, healthcare, employment more accessible to the local villagers, thereby dissuading them from joining the ranks of the Naxals.

In December last year, the state government set up a power substation in Mahupal village of Bastar to ensure uninterrupted power supply. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh had said earlier this year that the government is fighting the battle against the Naxals by electrifying villages and constructing roads.

Other than infrastructure development, the government has also taken steps to curb their funding. The NIA has been investigating the inter-state modules through funding and money trails. In May this year, it was announced that a multidisciplinary agency consisting of officials from the IB, ED, NIA and CBI, has been set up by the Home Ministry for tracing and choking the funding channels of Naxals and Maoists.

This has increasingly led to LWEs surrendering. In Jharkhand, the LWE cadres who surrendered have gone from 676 in 2014 to 1442 in 2016. The state governments have their own surrender and rehabilitation incentives to rehabilitate and bring the surrendered cadres mainstream which is eventually reimbursed by the central government. The combination of the developmental projects and intense security operations in these areas have resulted in shrinking down of Naxals forces in the country, thereby bringing the insurgency in these areas on its deathbed.

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