Left-wing extremists could be trying to use the ongoing migrant crisis for luring new cadres and reviving Naxalism in the areas where it has lost steam. According to a TOI report, Maoists in Madhya Pradesh are trying to exploit this crisis emanating out of the Coronavirus Pandemic and related lockdowns to the fullest, by targeting the jobless migrants returning home.
The Maoists have launched a massive recruitment drive, and officials say that the Naxalites are trying to contact the migrant labourers returning to their homes in Madhya Pradesh in Balaghat, Mandla and Dindori districts. Disasters and times of economic distress are times when Naxalites try to lure those under circumstances of undeserved want.
Maoists are going full throttle in Madhya Pradesh, and officials have added that senior leaders have been seen in clusters of remote villages- areas that Maoists usually target for stepping up recruitment.
Balaghat, Mandla and Dindori districts have been strategically chosen by the Maoists, as 2,00,000 migrants have returned to their native homes, and 90,000 have returned in Balaghat alone. These are migrants who have lost their jobs in urban areas and stare at an uncertain future- the Left-wing radicals now feel that there cannot be a better opportunity to tap on than the misery of these migrant labourers.
Consequences of Maoist presence are already visible, as a Hawk Force jawan was shot at on Friday and got injured in the incident, though he is presently out of danger.
TOI quotes a police officer as saying, “Maoists are trying to recruit ground-level cadres. Jobless people may think about joining them for the sake of their families and children.” To mark their presence, the Naxalites have also come up with handwritten pamphlets warning the villagers and forest officials against felling trees.
The pamphlets read, “Unabated felling of trees in the forest has led to mass migration of tribals and other villagers. This has put human existence in danger. These felling has been done without permission of gram sabhas. No tree can be felled in scheduled areas. Officers are not consulting gram sabhas before taking any decision. Labourers are being paid less wages–Bodla Area Committee.”
The Bodla unit has itself shown presence after a year, showing how the Maoists are looking to make the most of the migrant crisis.
The state of Madhya Pradesh is particularly vulnerable to the ongoing migrant crisis because of two main reasons- firstly, there is heavy reverse migration into the state and secondly, because the Maoists have been trying to expand their presence in Madhya Pradesh since 2018.
In fact, in 2018 there were several reports of Naxalites trying to create new battle zones in the state, including a 250-kilometre long ‘Red Corridor’ in the jungles of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh with stress on districts like Mandla and Balaghat districts that have come under spotlight during the migrant crisis now.
A Zee News report had also revealed that the top Maoist commanders had decided to carve out a new battle zone in the Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra (MMC) tri-junction border.
Both Balaghat and Mandla are sensitive areas that are vulnerable to Maoist influence and in March 2018, the then Madhya Pradesh Home Minister had said, “We have noticed Naxal movement in areas bordering Chhattisgarh, especially in Mandla and Balaghat districts, and sounded alert in the entire region. Instructions have also been issued to keep strict vigil in Mandla district where additional forces have been deployed after receiving specific inputs on Naxal activities.”
The Maoists and the anti-naxal forces were thus locked in a tough battle in these areas, and then the Pandemic happened which changes the dynamic of the battle against Naxalism altogether.
The fact remains that Maoists wait for disasters to happen, and have been known to use droughts or potential droughts for luring new recruits. Maoism in India thrives on joblessness which is a reason why they had come up with posters for recruitment in Naxal-hit areas on the Bihar-Jharkhand border in December 2018.
And the Pandemic offers the Left-Wing Extremists what they always wanted- jobless migrants with an uncertain future returning to their native villages. Now, the Maoists are looking to exploit their severe financial distress for bolstering recruitment and reviving Maoism in areas where it has run out of steam.