Chhattisgarh polls: Why PM Modi talking of ‘urban Naxals’ instead of dealing with Naxalism is fraught with dangers

The BJP government is neither doing justice by the people of Naxal-affected areas, nor to civil society or our security forces.

 |  5-minute read |   20-11-2018
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A flurry of recent attacks on security forces and media by Naxals in Chhattisgarh, and the rhetoric of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the election campaign in the state, indicate that the ruling elite at the Centre and in the state are least bothered about tackling the problem.

Instead, they are more interested in reaping political dividends out of tragedies.

bjp-690_111918072935.jpgWhy 'urban Naxals' when the problem is elsewhere? PM Modi doesn't sound fully convincing on tackling the real Naxal threat. (Source: Twitter/@BJP4India)

According to data, since 2014, Chhattisgarh has witnessed 1,247 Naxal attacks and 253 security personnel have been killed in these attacks. On 24 April, 2017, 25 CRPF jawans were killed in Sukma. In 2008-09, 76 CRPF personnel were ambushed in Sukma, 18 Congress workers and leaders, including VC Shukla and Mahendra Karma, were killed by the Naxals in the middle of the forest in Darbha.

According to the reply of the Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, to the Lok Sabha, 57 CRPF personnel have been killed in Chhattisgarh only during the last two years.

In 2018 itself, 205 incidents of violence involving Naxals were reported from the state. It seems the state government did not learn anything from the past attacks. What began as a forest committee is now running a parallel government in 10 out of the 27 districts in the state. A historian once said: “History has a lesson for those who want to learn, not for those who want to remain adamant.”

Why is Chhattisgarh a soft target for Naxalites — and why is the problem growing bigger day by day, that too against the reverse trend in its neighbouring states?

darbha-attack-690_111918073329.jpgCongress lost some very senior local leader in the Darbha attack (Source: India Today)

The answer lies in the inability of the state government to tackle the menace. The defective economic and social policies of the state government are failing the youth of Chhattisgarh. Naxalism cannot be solved if viewed only as a problem of law of law and order; its economic and social dimensions need to be understood and addressed.

Chhattisgarh is a land of opportunities. But, the state government has failed to understand the psyche of the tribals. The ‘development’ model of the Raman Singh government doesn’t include the ground realities and the problems being faced by the aam janta. Resurrecting governance in the Maoist-dominated areas in Chhattisgarh has proved to be the state's Achilles heel.

Looking at the situation from an economic perspective, the BJP-ruled state since 2003 emerges as the country’s poorest state, with more than 40% population below the poverty line.

The state has record poverty levels among tribals, who constitute one-third of its total population. The economically better-off districts in the state are not much better in terms of poverty. Moreover, high poverty-level areas exhibit a high degree of physical and social infrastructure sparseness. The rice bowl of India has witnessed 1,500 farmers’ suicides during the last three years, as per government data.

Agrarian distress and the failure of the state to address this crisis are forcing people, particularly agricultural labourers and marginal farmers, to migrate to other states. Those who have stayed back are outside the periphery of ‘development’. Unemployment is a big concern for the youth of Chhattisgarh. About 14 per cent graduates are reportedly without any source of livelihood in the state. The continuing job crisis in the state has disillusioned the youth of the state.

It is a fact that whether the youths in general lean towards alienation and rebellion, or towards incorporation in political competition, depends on the measures on ground-level that generate employment for youth. 

The absence of a certain quality of education and healthcare facilities are also a concern. The economic and industrial policies of the Chhattisgarh government have added fuel to the problem. All these facts and figures indicate that things are lacking in governance. So, it is the absence of the state which is one of the most important preconditions for the proliferation of naxalism in Chhattisgarh. The stiff ascendancy of Naxals in Chhattisgarh is a glaring example of the weakening legitimacy of the state government.

Raman Singh cannot escape the reality that he has shaped the state’s policies for three consecutive terms.

raman-690_111918073153.jpgChief Minister Raman Singh can't escape blame for the state of affairs. (Source: India Today)

Calibrated security response, with vigorous pro-people development measures, would help to meet the Naxalite challenge in Chhattisgarh. Development should come simultaneously with anti-insurgency measures.

Without development, more boots on the ground will not be able to reverse the successes of the Maoists.

During the UPA regime, a lot of developmental measures, along with strengthening of security parameters in Naxal-affected states, including Chhattisgarh, were undertaken. Intelligence was revamped and the state was permitted to use helicopters for security operations.

At the same time, pro-people policy measures like the Integrated Action Plan was introduced to provide public infrastructure and services such as school buildings, anganwadi centres, primary health centres, drinking water supply, village roads and electric lights at public places in Naxal-affected areas — but the scheme was discontinued by the Modi government.

Instead of addressing these pressing concerns, the Prime Minister is now trying to shift the narrative to ‘urban Naxals’. Like terrorism, Naxalism anywhere is a threat to all but by curbing civil rights under the garb of anti-Naxal operations, the BJP government is neither doing justice by the people of Naxal-affected areas, nor civil society and security forces.

Seventy-six per cent voter turnout in the first phase of Assembly elections indicates that the people of Chhattisgarh have rejected extremist threats in favour of democratic means.

Now, it is for the government to ensure an enabling environment for the people and security forces to completely eradicate the menace.

Misplaced priorities will only lead to missed opportunities.

Also read: Chhattisgarh: Is BJP counting on a young IAS officer to win a Congress bastion?


Jaiveer Shergill Jaiveer Shergill @jaiveershergill

The author is a Supreme Court advocate and national media panellist, Indian National Congress. The views of the author are personal.

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