In a major political development, the BJP has lost to the JMM-Congress-RJD alliance in the state of Jharkhand, and therefore yet another state in the Red Corridor is now governed by a non-BJP dispensation. Congress is now in government right from Jharkhand to Maharashtra, and this means a big chance for Naxalism to make a comeback from east to west in the area of its influence.
One of the major focus areas of the Modi government has been to effectively tackle Left Wing Extremism (LWE), and in its first tenure, the Modi government was able to break the back of naxal terror. The government and the security forces cracked down hard on the Naxals under the leadership of the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Statistics corroborate Modi government’s unprecedented success in this direction.
While 75 districts spanning nine states were affected by Naxal violence in 2015, the number declined to 67 in 2016 and further down to 58 districts in 2017. The shrinking influence of Naxalism got further corroborated when the Union Home Ministry removed 44 districts from the list of 126 Naxalism affected districts last year. The then Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh had even gone to the extent of saying that districts affected by Naxal violence in the country had come from 126 districts to about 10-12 districts.
While speaking at the 26th anniversary of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), last year, he had also claimed, “The day is not far, maybe in a time period of 1-2 or 3 years, that the LWE will be eliminated from the country and this would happen due to your (CRPF) determination, courage and hard work and that of the state police forces.”
Apart from crackdown by the security forces, and the development initiatives of the Modi government and now-ousted BJP led governments in the Naxalism-affected states, Demonetisation of currency notes in 2016 by Modi government had also hit Naxalism badly. According to a research conducted by Public Policy Research Centre (PPRC) which based its findings on field works in Rajnandgaon, Sukma, Bijapur and Narayanpur districts of Chhattisgarh in July and August last year, demonetisation starved Maoists of the illicit cash they used to fund their activities.
On the other hand, to curb foreign funding received by these Naxalites, the Central Government came up with stringent laws like FCRA, after which transparency has increased on the use of money coming from abroad and their illegal funding has been stopped
This year it was revealed by the Modi government that Naxal violence has gone down by 43 per cent over the last five years when compared to the five year period preceding that. This vital information was disclosed in the month of July by Union Minister of State for Home G Krishna Reddy while replying to a written question in the Rajya Sabha.
According to him, Left Wing Extremism (LWE) has declined and incidents of LWE-violence were recorded in only 60 districts in 2018. He said, “Of these, 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.”
It is also pertinent to mention here that there has also been a sharp decline in the number of casualties owing to Naxal violence. In the five year period of 2009-13, 3,326 people, including security personnel, lost their lives. This number went down to 1,321 in 2014-18, thereby meaning a sharp decline of 60.4 per cent. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has also looked to continue the crackdown on Naxalism.
After the abrogation of Article 370, extermination of Naxalism seems to be the next big thing on Shah’s agenda. In fact, he recently declared that Maoists are against the idea of democracy and will be uprooted. He had also held a meeting with the Chief Ministers of the LWE-affected states, after which he had made this declaration. Last month, the Home Ministry issued a statement, which read, “The Home Minister (Amit Shah) 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.”
Had a very fruitful meeting with the CM’s of the LWE affected states.
Discussed several issues related to the security & development of these states.
Left Wing Extremism is against the idea of democracy and under the leadership of PM @narendramodi we are committed to uproot it. pic.twitter.com/xB7LgLI4lo
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) August 26, 2019
According to Union Home Ministry’s annual report, the geographical expanse of Maoist violence has been considerably reduced and 89 per cent of it was restricted to just 30 districts in 2018. With Naxalism getting confined to fewer pockets, the Modi government has created a favourable position wherein the security forces can concentrate only on a few districts and exterminate Naxalism at full throttle.
However, the sudden change in political circumstances changes everything. Last year, the Congress came to power in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and this year it has become a part of coalition governments in Jharkhand and Maharashtra. The BJP has been pushed out of power in all these states, and this means that Naxalism has an opportunity of springing back in the Red Corridor all the way up to Maharashtra.
Last year, the C-60 squad of the Maharashtra Police and the CRPF had gunned down 37 Maoists on the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. The NCP, however, has already taken a soft stance with Sharad Pawar coming out in support of “urban Naxals” in the Elgar Parishad case who had plotted to assassinate PM Modi. With such a government in power, it is unlikely that such effective encounters will take place in the future.
The Modi government and the BJP governments in the Naxalism affected states did not only crackdown on armed Naxals in tribal areas, but the term “urban Naxals” was also coined and exploited to take the urban patrons and facilitators of naxal militancy to to task. Naxalism has been checked and humiliated at all levels, giving it no breathing space. However, there are clear indications that this is going to change with the BJP out of power in most of the Naxal affected states and Naxal sympathisers ready to bring back the era of impunity.
The main responsibility of tackling Naxalism lies with the State governments, while the Centre plays more of a supportive role. The Centre can provide only material support and Central forces, the states have to show the political will, which also plays a crucial role in intelligence gathering. If this political will is lacking, not much can be expected when it comes to tackling Naxalism. This makes the present situation even more worrisome. It is relevant to mention here that the geographical character of the Naxal affected states is such that it is not going to be very difficult for Naxalism to make a comeback. If they literally have no hindrance from the states, then the terrain in states like Madhya Pradesh characterised by ravines, thick forests and tribal areas, would prove to be a breeding ground for Naxalism all over again. This is why a constant crackdown on Naxalism becomes critical to maintaining the lead that the Modi government has achieved over LWE.
When the full course of an antibiotic is not administered, the infection tends to return with stronger resistance for the drug, similarly, if Naxalism gets any breathing space- the time to strengthen and shield itself against the nature of never-before-seen onslaught unleashed on it by BJP governments, the consequences could be much deadlier than before.
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