Sukma slaughter: When hypocrisy takes over prudence
On April 4, twenty-three security force and police personnel were massacred near village Jonagunda in district Sukma, Chhattisgarh. The perpetrators were butchers who call themselves Naxalites, a nomenclature they picked up originally from village Naxalbari in West Bengal. Paradoxically, Naxalbari has since turned right and rooting for BJP to humble TMC and CPM in the ongoing state elections. The 400-strong attackers used bombs, LMGs, grenade launchers and stabbed injured policemen to death who got trapped in heavily-mined hideouts while escaping the sudden barrage of fire.
The least the dead and injured policemen expected was national anger and words of healing from people across faiths, political beliefs and individual prejudices. But it didn't happen. The usual suspects among intellectuals kept quiet and were busy finding rationale why Naxals had to take up arms to snatch their economic and political rights from successive oppressive regimes.
Communists called the murders revolutionaries. Sonia Gandhi and her likes ignored it as a recurring and passable event. Yet others blamed the CRPF and police leadership for planning a doomed operation without adequate preparation and intelligence inputs. Finally, it was left to the NDA leaders to grieve and keep the morale of surviving troops high.
Our insensitivity to the bloodbath has indeed been bottomless. It was disgusting to see several third-rate, paid commentators speak for the murderers, justify their brutality and question the government for forcing the 'poor Naxals' to resort to violence to avenge deprivation of their land, mining rights and basic economic assistance. The electronic media had evidently lost its sense of appropriateness by giving platform to these renegades whose place were in police lock-ups and not in TV studios, justifying the killings.
What disgusted most was the familiar grandstanding and shedding of crocodile tears. The sight of placing wreaths, announcing ex-gratia payments and vowing to avenge the death of policemen till Naxalites are wiped out, have been so repetitive and offensive. And, when you hear Chief Minister Chhattisgarh Baghel announcing that development and armed operations will continue simultaneously in affected areas, you wonder whether he has any feet on ground.
This age-old, trite strategy is actually a trap that Naxals have laid for the state and central governments across all parties, to fall in. I know how every developmental work financially benefits Naxals. Every contractor, engineer, truck operator and official from police, revenue, health, education and forest department pays them to survive in the Naxal - affected area. Thank these gangs of extortionists, that you see roads being constructed, schools and hospitals being run and development taking place. The credit should legitimately go to them and not to Mr Baghel. The areas Naxals do not want you to enter, can never be developed by the state and if it persists, the forces will have to pay dearly with their lives.
Let all development work stop for three to five years. Let the state not become paymasters to these criminals and a source of their permanent sustenance. Follow the Maoist strategy to beat these Maoist guerrillas. Let forces start clearing one village after another of the rebels and then go on finally liberating the whole of affected areas once for all. The hit and relax tactics adopted by our forces has proved completely ineffective and ended up in adding more casualties. The need is to flush out the Naxals clean and then hold the ground till it is all over. Forces cannot run offensive operations in fits and fury, kill a few Naxals here and there and then, return to camps. They will fetch support and loyalty of fence sitters and reluctant comrades only if they are provided physical security and a feeling of 'good riddance'.
These Naxals are actually eager to join the mainstream and stop being informers, shelterers and frontline fighters of Hidma and company. The task is thus cut out for the Union Home Minister. Collateral damages and instances of highhanded will of course occur and criticism from human rights activists, political opportunists, hired international lobbyists and known India baiters will also be heard. Just ignore them.
No Naxal believes he can ever overthrow the government at the centre and in states or replace the constitution with their magna carta and, judiciary with their kangaroo courts. The best he thinks he can do is to remain a prisoner of his self-created circumstances and carry on. For this he needs money, volunteers and terrorised supporters who have no other choice but to follow him. The urban Naxals who are sustaining him have, however, a different agenda. They know that with a ragtag band of murderers, waging a revolution for establishing a state of working class is not feasible but it is always possible to use them for keeping India destabilised by pitching people against each other.
The whole ecosystem of Naxal activities has actually become a thriving industry for hostile foreigners, suave urban Naxals and middlemen who are just like one of us but operate as courier between the underground criminals and overground supporters. It is not easy to keep the foreigners at bay nor it is possible to imprison and swiftly punish all urban Naxals in a country where freedom of expression thrives, undeserving respectability is given to high flying lawyers, professors, artists, authors, pseudo elites and where judicial process is tortuously slow. As for middlemen, they are quite a few in numbers but not easily identifiable.
You can find them in all professions and all walks of lives. The only way to neutralise their entire support system is to force closure of this industry of Naxalites. Let the hypocrisy of development and concern for their land and poverty take a back seat. Which section in India is not deprived of development and in some cases, of separate nationhood but has that prompted war against the government? Insurgent and terrorist groups in the North East, J&K and Punjab did wage a war but eventually they had to fall in line after taking a toll of thousands of precious lives and property. It is baffling why the lessons learnt from these success stories are not being applied in the case of Naxalites. Though it is a wishful thinking, it is never too late for Delhi to look for a KPS Gill to ensure that Sukma bloodbath is not repeated.
(Amar Bhushan, former special secretary of the Research and Analysis Wing, Amar Bhushan)