Callous about Maoist terror
There is much focus now on the Maoist threat in India and, despite entirely inconsistent assessments by various Government agencies, an increasing consensus around the view that this is the greatest internal security challenge confronting the country. At the same time – and particularly in the aftermath of the major incidents that are all-too-frequently engineered by the Maoists – there is rising concern at the ‘police failure’ or ‘security forces failure’ to contain this rising menace.
It needs to be recognised at the outset that a professional and motivated police force, with a sufficient numerical strength and adequate material and technological resources, and with a clear political mandate, can defeat any insurgency in India, including this latest bogey – the Maoist ‘protracted war’. If there is a failure to contain and defeat the Maoists, it is because the necessary capacities and mandate are deliberately kept in abeyance; indeed, the limited and entirely deficient capacities that do currently exist are systematically undermined by a cabal of corrupt political, administrative and police leaderships that have developed a deep vested interest in the persistence of the Maoist insurgency. Unless the dynamics of the implicit or explicit nexus between this leadership group and Maoist violence is understood and neutralised, an effective strategy to defeat the Naxalites can neither be framed, nor implemented.
The reality of the situation on the ground – irrespective of the theoretical and supposedly ideological constructs that are given currency in the mock discourse among the ‘intelligentsia’ – is that this is a fight between two corrupt entities that find mutual benefit and enrichment in fake engagements which can be sustained in perpetuity. A few hapless members of the constabulary and subordinate ranks in the security forces, and equally luckless cadres of the so-called revolutionaries are, of course, killed off from time to time. But no one is really concerned about the occasional massacre – despite the brouhaha that is raised in the media after each major incident.
Fatality figures, in fact, can be used to support whatever thesis is calculated to augment the flow of funds to personal or party coffers. A close scrutiny of the operational situation and the conditions under which the forces are working will demonstrate unambiguously that, in most States and areas, nothing really changes on the ground in the wake of major incidents.
This is the reason why almost no State – and some have been at it for 40 years and more – has been able to entirely and permanently eradicate Left-wing extremism. The Maoist movement, over the past decades, has steadily augmented to attain the status of a massive trans-State exercise in organised extortion and protection racketeering. And everywhere, opportunistic alliances between the Maoists and ‘overground’ political parties and entities are in place, most visibly around each electoral exercise, but in a constant intercourse at all times.
Almost all political parties have become mirror images of each other in India today, but in this regard they are even more so, with a multiplicity of corrupt parties and organisations woven together in a complex tapestry of duplicity and fraud that entrenches the ruling elite – an elite that grows increasingly more dynastic in all parties over time. Small cabals of violently criminal adventurers manage to break into the charmed circle of political privilege, from time to time, by their sheer ferocity and lack of restraint. The Maoist leadership and the many criminals in the State and national legislatures fall, naturally, into the latter category.
Drumming up a sense of crisis has become an integral part of the efforts at ‘resource mobilisation’ in this broad enterprise, and that is why the ‘developmental solution’ to Naxalism finds such strong advocacy among political leaders and state bureaucracies everywhere. Long years ago, Rajiv Gandhi noted that barely 15 paisa in each rupee of developmental funding actually reached its intended beneficiaries; the rest was swallowed up by the black hole of ‘power brokers’. In insurgency affected areas, the proportion of developmental funds that is actually utilised for intended purposes would be even smaller – virtually the entire sums, totalling thousands of crores, find their way into the pockets of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and their hangers on, and through their symbiotic relationship with the ‘insurgents’ into the pockets of the Maoists as well.
Among the multiplicity of reasons for the military debacle in the Indo-China war of 1962, it was found that the Border Roads Organisation had ‘constructed’ many roads that existed only on maps, but of which there was no evidence on the ground. Forty-five years later, the same formula is now being applied in Naxalite areas, and it is difficult even to imagine how much of the exchequer’s money has been spent on roads that were never constructed, but for which payments have been made and distributed among the local ‘stakeholders’, with the Naxalites cornering a considerable share to bolster up their ‘revolution’.
The Centre now underwrites virtually all security related expenditure in Maoist afflicted States, providing support for police modernisation and force augmentation. Yet, States fail to create the necessary capacities to counter the Maoist threat. Even where significant disbursal of such funds occurs, their utilisation remains inefficient, and diversion to other, often unauthorised uses, is endemic.
The tragedy of existing or newly created capacities is as great. The State police leaderships are raising new battalions of armed forces, but recruitment is marred by widespread bribery. You cannot expect a man who secures his position in a police force through bribery to actually risk his life fighting the Naxalites. So the next stage is inevitable: Policemen pay bribes to the police leadership to secure postings outside the Naxalite affected ‘conflict’ areas, and in ‘soft’ areas and duties. The amounts collected through these and other ‘administrative’ channels – including the continuous business of transfers and postings – total in the hundreds of crores, and are naturally shared with the political leadership that enables corrupt officers to retain ‘lucrative’ positions, where they can continue with this despicable commerce. That is why, even in State’s where there has been a visible augmentation of forces over the past years, deployment in the ‘conflict’ areas remains disproportionately deficient.
These are ‘snapshots’ of the objective situation on the ground. How are we to extricate the nation from this predicament? The cabals that are currently exploiting the situation to the hilt will have to be broken. The right individuals – from constables to the highest force commanders – will have to be identified and correctly located. Political leaders will have to look beyond party coffers and the next election, to a future in which people can live without fear. If this does not happen, the corrupt state will continue to fight the corrupt ‘revolutionary’, with mounting casualties in widening theatres, till the collapse of governance reaches a point where the venality of the national elite threatens its own existence.