In a major development, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has asked the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the armed force of the Union that is charged with the responsibility of maintaining internal security, to not only fight terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir and Maoists in central India, but also go after “urban Naxals”. After taking head-on the Pakistan-backed Islamist terror in Kashmir, and ensuring peace after removing article 370 in J&K, Amit Shah seems to have taken up the elimination of the Naxalism in the next six months.
According to an MHA statement, “The Home Minister directed the CRPF to carry out an effective and decisive campaign against Left Wing Extremism in the next six months. Action needs to be taken against the urban Naxals and their facilitators. The Home Minister emphasised that the road connectivity and medical infrastructure in LWE areas should be upgraded.”
It is important to mention here that Naxal violence has gone down by 43 per cent over the last five years when compared to the five year period preceding that. Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) has declined and such incidents were recorded in only 60 districts in 2018. Union Minister of State for Home G Krishna Reddy said, “Of these (60 districts), only 10 districts account for 2/3rd of LWE violence. The LWE-related incidents of violence between April 2014 to May 2019 have been 43 per cent lesser when compared with the preceding five-year period.”
There has been a tremendous decline in Naxal violence too, which has come down by 43.4 per cent in the aforementioned time period. The number of casualties due to Naxal violence, including the security personnel has also come down from 3,326 in 2009-13 to 1,321 in 2014-18.
It is clear that the Modi government has debilitated Naxalism beyond repair. Now, it is all set to inflict a decisive blow by striking at the very roots of the Naxal ideology and going after both LWE activists and “urban Naxals” who facilitate the Naxal ideology. In the month of June last year, the Bhima-Koregaon violence (Elgar Parishad) case brought the issue of “urban Naxals” into limelight. The Pune Police had exposed the shocking plot of Maoist leaders involved in the case to assassinate PM Modi. The police also released evidence showing that the accused- Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bhardwaj and Gautam Navalakha were directly or indirectly involved in Maoist activities.
The nexus between overground Naxal activists and the urban Naxals was further exposed when a joint team of the CRPF, NIA and local police recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition from Naxal stronghold, Lugu Pahar in Bokaro district of Jharkhand. The successful raids were carried out on the basis of the information provided by hardcore Maoist Sunil Majhi alias Charles. Last year, CRPF Director General R R Bhatnagar had told PTI in an interview that a first-time concerted action is being taken against ‘overground’ Maoist supporters in various states.
In a major success, 500 such supporters were already arrested at the time of the interview by the security forces from Chhattisgarh alone over a period of one year. He added that the CRPF is working in coordination with state police forces and fresh action is being taken to deny any space to the left-wing extremists. The aim is to counter the Naxals beyond field operations.
Therefore, it had already become clear that the “Urban Maoists” are in for more trouble as the security forces would be unforgiving in their crackdown on the urban support base to Naxalites. Last year, a spate of surrenders by the Naxals made it clear that the ultras are not only losing physically but psychologically also. Naxalism is being defeated at an ideological level as well. And this is where it becomes critical for the Modi government to launch an onslaught against the urban Naxals if it wants to decisively eradicate Naxalism from India.
Naxals have their own arms factories, a Research and Development wing, propaganda wing and a recruitment branch. Naxalism is far more organised than one could imagine, and there is greater involvement from urban centres though it is almost invisible. They have a dedicated network which functions as the propaganda wing concentrated in the urban areas. This wing includes lawyers, former judges, activists and students.
These urban comrades not only act as propaganda machinery evoking sympathy for Naxals as ‘victims’ and portraying the establishment as oppressors, but also aid the movement of men, funds and ammunition in Naxal controlled areas. In 2008, Chhattisgarh police had discovered that a travel agency had been helping the Naxals in moving their arms and men.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah understands how “urban Naxals” have facilitated the rise of the toxic ideology in the far-flung areas of India. In fact, even the architects of the Naxalbari revolt Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal came from affluent, urban background. It was this Naxalbari revolt that ultimately led to the spread of Naxalism across several states. In such circumstances, it is only natural that Amit Shah has set “urban Naxals” as his next target even as the Modi government readies itself for a final, decisive assault on Naxalism.