he death of 22 security personnel in a deadly Left Wing Extremists (LWE) or Maoist ambush in the jungles of Bijapur in Chhattisgarh on April 3 has brought to the fore not only the inherent flaw in the Centre’s handling of the problem but a host of more serious faults that are responsible for causing such unnecessary deaths of Indian jawans. It seems the BJP-led NDA-government is more adept in vilifying people with differing opinions by branding them as urban Naxal rather than dealing with the real extremists and the causes that fuel the growth of their activities in tribal-dominated regions of Chhattisgarh and other nearby states. It will not be an exaggeration to say that our security personnel are being used as cannon fodder when one considers the fact that in the Dantewada-Sukma-Bijapur area alone some 175 lives of the forces, besides several civilians, have been snuffed out in encounters with the LWE since 2010. According to reports, the LWE used tractors to carry away some of their dead and injured during the ambush at Bijapur. An officer is also said to have gone missing. About 30 other personnel are lying injured after the gunfight. The recent massacre should be a matter of concern to neighboring states of Andhra, Orissa and Telengana. These states, which had relative calm lately, would be certain to see a fresh spurt of recruitments and activities after this success.
What causes concern is the revelation that over 2,000 personnel from at least five camps in Sukma and Bijapur had gone into the forest around Tarrem in Bijapur district. Yet, they were trapped by a LWE squad that was numerically no match for the armed forces. In a proforma reply to media query, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) chief sought to gloss over the query whether there was intelligence failure. This is a critical question that needs to be answered as the security build-up clearly showed the operation had been planned on the basis of intelligence inputs. There are questions whether it was sound strategy to mobilise so many personnel in one single encounter, especially when successes had been achieved in the past when small contingents were deployed to tackle the extremists.
The key question is what the government has been doing all these years to eliminate the causes that spawn the growth of LWE activities. It is not only the stark poverty of the tribals and backward communities in the mineral-rich areas of those states that force the ill-fed, ill-clothed and ill-treated population to join the ranks of LWEs or support them by providing inputs. It is more so because of the impression that has been created that the government belongs to the rich, the mine owners and industrialists and therefore it is pointless to expect justice from such a system. No doubt there will be strong voices that will try to put the blame of the mission’s failure and the needless deaths at the door of the Congress ruled state government. Because of short convenient memories, they need reminding that similar situations had arisen when the BJP was in power in Chhattisgarh couple of years ago.
During the UPA-II government, the operations against the LWEs were carried out with a definite deadline to serve the interests of big industries keen on exploiting the mineral resources buried in these regions. Obviously, the exercise failed in its objective since the root causes of the growth of radical ideas were dealt with too casually. The policy of Salwa Judum to eliminate the LWEs backfired because it was based on the crude principles of treachery and mindless violence.
The NDA government, on the other hand, has busied itself with taking on intellectuals and activists working for the uplift of the people in abject poverty living in those areas. It has chosen the easy option of putting them behind bars, intimidating them and subjecting them to protracted legal proceedings in order to break their will and undermine their physical health. Propaganda on social media and pet television channels against the urban Naxals may help the BJP get good response from its echo chambers, but it simply is not a successful strategy at all to contain the extremists whose popularity seems to be increasing, if their recruitment drives are any indication.
Coining catchy phrases, damning people with progressive ideas and protecting the interests of big money are not the answer. Political parties will come and go. Elections will ensure such passages. However, serious long term damages inflicted on the country will last much longer. That is what is happening now.