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Naxal movements and the counter-measures in India

By: Souvik Chatterji
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Naxalite movements had disturbed the peace and security of most of the states of India during the last 15 years. A number of counter measures were formulated in 2005 to combat naxalite movement in different parts of the country. The issue that can be debated is that whether the counter measures had been successful or not?

Before inferring about the results of the countering the measures the measures themselves required to be mentioned. Firstly funds were given to the states which were naxal-prone (like Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, etc.) to modernize the police forces in terms of advanced weaponry, latest communication equipment and other infrastructure.

Also security related expenditure was revised in February 2005. Under the scheme new items were introduced like insurance scheme for police personnel, community policing, rehabilitation of surrendered naxalites, etc. Taking into consideration the increased casualties of police personnel due to mine blasts, the naxal affected States have been provided with Mine Protected Vehicles (MPH) under the police modernization scheme.

The naxal-affected States had been sanctioned India Reserve (IR) Battalions to strengthen security apparatus at their level. The Central Government provided Rs. 20.75 crores per IR Battalion as against the earlier amount of Rs 13 crores per battalion. In order to also prevent entry of Maoists across the indo-Nepal border SSB was given the responsibility of guarding the Indo-Nepal border.

The Central Government also initiated Backward Districts Initiative (BDI). The Central Govt. provided financial assistance of Rs 2,475 crores for 55 naxal affected districts of 9 states including Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The money had been provided for social welfare and development of the backward districts. The Central Government also introduced the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005 in the Parliament.

As far as the success of the Counter Measures are concerned there were mixed results. Although it worked in states like Maharashtra or Madhya Pradesh, it hardly had any affect in Andhra Pradesh. There were different reasons for this.

Firstly the five major demands of the naxalites, that was distribution of land, distribution of forest resources, getting minimum wages, gaining social dignity and securing self governance. While some of the demands were justified, others were baseless. Besides there were no mention in the counter measures of the manner in which the funds that were enjoyed by PWG and other naxalite organizations in Andhra Pradesh and other States could be seized.

Such funds were created by the naxalites by forcefully extorting property from the forest department officials, professionals and contractors. The counter measures should have included special task forces only to have been deployed in the forest areas where handling the Maoists had always been difficult.

Besides the procedure of acquisition of forest lands by the Government for the development infrastructure processes had not been addressed under the counter measures. The Land Acquisition Act of 1896, had always been a strong tool in the hands of the Government and led to misuse. The tribals who were displaced received elementary compensation but never got their livelihood issues addressed. The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007 and the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007, had addressed these issues. But until these Bills are enacted the Government is supposed to take the tribal population and poor section of the displaced groups into confidence before lending lands to SEZs, and other groups of development of infrastructures.

Besides, some of the states like Andhra Pradesh had very peculiar statistics. Whenever the State Government instead of taking harsh measures against the naxalites had allowed them to operate in the open, the unrest in the respective jurisdiction decreased.

For example, in the 90s, when the State Government of Andhra Pradesh released the ban on naxalites, the casualties were lesser than the casualties in existence when the ban was not lifted. Another factor that has to addressed along with the implementation of the counter measures, is the stopping of opium trade in the respective jurisdictions. The Government of India very recently had addressed the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), under the Home Ministry and mentioned that states like West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, and other states where illegal opium cultivation had been reported, the same regions were infested with naxalite movements.

In respect of linkage of the naxalites with the illicit opium trade more information and evidence in required. The Centre and the State should work together to track the illicit traders of opium and prevent the inflow of funds from such traders to the naxalites.

In conclusion it can be said, that the counter measures cannot be considered successful in totality or failure. Implementation of such measures is a challenge. Along with them the peace talks, control of opium trade, development measures, land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement issues should be addressed. If the plans can be worked out systematically it is not impossible to bring peace and solidarity in the naxal-prone states of India.

Souvik Chatterji

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