The rise of Naxal-Maoist related activities in eastern India gives rise to the apprehension that India is entering a phase where it will sooner or later face the second major threat to its territorial integrity after the Khalistani or Kashmiri terrorist threat. Several eastern Indian states are overrun with Naxalite organizations or their sympathizers and the security forces are already battling secessionist organizations with foreign backing in North-East India . However, a point to be noted is that unlike the problem in the North-East, the Naxal problem has strong socio-economic roots in the failure of local administration to satisfy the basic needs of the local population.
Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar , Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra and north Andhra Pradesh are but a few of the states in east India that have been grappling with this problem for quite some time. Naxalite organizations like the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), Communist Party of India (Maoist), People’s War Group (PWG), and their alleged sympathizers such as the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee ( APCLC), have been targeting police stations, government offices, panchayats, banks, and the press in overt and covert ways. The statistics are alarming. The Naxal organizations have control over 19% of India ’s forests in these areas. They have expanded their influence in 55 districts in 9 states in November 2003 to 155 districts in 15 states by February 2005. According to press reports, NNaxalites have been able to establish a corridor between Jharkhand on one side and Andhra Pradesh on the other. The corridor passes mostly through forest belts and crosses human habitats at a few patches.
The PWG, the MCC, and the Nepalese Maoists are members of the 12-member Maoist coalition known as the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA), whose formation was announced in July 2001. Later, on January 25, 2002 , the Nepalese Maoists resolved at a meeting of the central committee of their politburo to oppose, jointly with the PWG and the MCC, and conduct a campaign against the Indian and the Nepalese governments.
The failure of the administration to make sure that the benefits of development percolate down to the common man, specifically tribals, is acknowledged as one of the main reasons for the success of Naxal activities. It is not a coincidence that Naxal infested states have large tribal populations with poor infrastructure. Corruption, displacement due to large scale projects, inability to avail of benefits from mining of mineral resources, and exploitation by local officials add to increased resentment and increased reception to Naxal propaganda.
Looting of police armouries, extortion of local industries, and funding from external and local sympathizers are sources of funding for Naxal organizations. Most of the people who contribute to Naxal organizations do so out of fear and retribution.
Some characteristics of the Indian and Nepali Maoists as quoted by B. Raman in SAAG:
An educated leadership, not necessarily coming from the deprived classes, and often motivated by the ambition to achieve political power through the barrel of the gun. To what extent is their motivation genuinely due to their sense of outrage over the prevailing economic and social injustice and their perception of an uncaring State and to what extent is their outrage merely a facade for their political ambition? A cadre largely drawn from the deprived classes---many little educated----- motivated by genuine economic and social grievances, but without any political ambitions. Networking to achieve their political ambitions. The continuing influence of Mao Zedong's Thoughts on the thinking of the leadership even though China itself has discarded them, while pretending not to have done so.
The Pakistani Connection
The Pakistani tendency to fish in troubled waters is too well known to be re-explained here. Although the People’s War Group is reluctant to play up any links between it and the ISI, press reports indicate that PWG leaders have asked the ULFA to play an intermediary role between it and the ISI for supplying arms and ammunition. PWG General Secretary Ganapathy in an interview has denied ostensible links to the ISI. In addition connections cannot be ruled out between LET and ISI sleeper cells in Andhra Pradesh and the People’s War group.
The Nepali Maoist organizations share a common objective with Indian Naxal organizations in overturning the status quo and establishing their own revolutionary rule. In 2004, both groups formed a cross border coordination committee to shelter each other’s cadres and share resources. These reports gives credence to the assumption that these two movements have more in common than just common ideology. The Indian and Nepali governments need to set their petty differences aside and coordinate the actions of their law enforcement bodies and administrations to deny sanctuary to the opposite side’s Naxal organizations. The recent flip-flops in Indian government policy in providing military aid to the Nepali government does not help the situation. The Indian government needs to adopt a consistent policy of providing support to the Nepal without allowing China and other countries to gain a foothold in Nepali affairs. While stopping arms supply to the RNA is not preferable as it will most certainly give China an opportunity to step in and provide arms to King Gyanendra, India needs to make sure that it’s arms are not used to suppress political dissent. Just as in India , the Nepali Maoists movement has it’s roots in genuine socio-political factors. Nepal must create conditions to clean the swamp that provides a fertile ground for fresh recruits.
Maoists in Bhutan
The other problem – though not as advanced as Nepal is Bhutan . Bhutan has a large refugee population composed primarily of Nepali origin. The Maoists are working hard to woo these refugees to join their movement and jump create trouble in Bhutan as well as Nepal . Although Bhutan did act finally to evict the ULFA training camps in 2004 after numerous Indian representations, a comprehensive solution has yet to be found to the refugee problem.
Bhutan is the ace up India ’s sleeve in case of North eastern India ’s problems going out of control. At least 50 youth from the refugee camps reportedly have joined the Maoists ranks.
The UPA alliance at the center is only coming to grips with its problems. Past governments have persistently treated this malaise as a law and order problem at the state level and refused to see the socio-economic factors in Central and east India as contributing to this problem.
It is up to the Central and State governments to evolve a common policy to deal with this problem and also convince our neighbours to cooperate with us.