Home India News India goes aggressive in fight against Maoist guerrillas

India goes aggressive in fight against Maoist guerrillas

By Murali Krishnan, IANS,

New Delhi : Shifting tack in its fight against left-wing extremism, India has drawn up a multi-pronged strategy that will target top leaders, win people through a propaganda war and offer cadres a surrender-and-rehabilitation policy while launching an extensive armed operation in Maoist strongholds across the country.

The strategy that also involves delinking development imperatives from an armed crackdown has gained urgency with a grand offensive to be launched to secure the Maoist belts and provide governance there, said top home ministry sources.

Whereas the focus was earlier on socio-economic measures to uplift backward areas, the government has now decided to be more aggressive — it will now be territory first, development later, said a home ministry official.

“Red terror can only be contained by the state asserting its authority. There has to be police action in areas where they (rebels) hold sway. We have to stop the destruction of public property and vital transport links,” said a senior intelligence functionary.

Evidence of this new tack was seen last week when a combined team of the elite anti-Maoist force, the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA) and the Chhattisgarh police killed around 30 rebels in Dantewada district, about 450 km south of the state capital Raipur.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram who visited Raipur Friday to review the internal security situation said the fight to defeat Maoists would be “long-drawn”.

“It is a long-drawn fight against Naxals (Maoists). The centre is totally supporting Chhattisgarh in its efforts to counter left-wing extremism,” he said.

Security agencies acting with better intelligence coordination have in the last month picked up two top Maoist leaders — Amit Bagchi in Ranchi and Kobad Ghandy in Delhi. This takes the number of politburo members of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) in custody to seven.

Ghandy, 58, was one of the party’s top functionaries tasked with spreading the outfit’s doctrine, helping in recruitment, apart from making contact with other Maoist outfits abroad.

“We believe if we target their top rung, the rebels will be bereft of direction and this could work to our advantage,” said a senior official.

The government is also involving the print media by issuing advertisements depicting the killings of innocent citizens by the armed rebels.

The first of this series of advertisements with the tagline, “Naxals are nothing but cold-blooded murderers” appeared in most national dailies last week. The ads carried graphic photographs of the bodies of women, men and children reportedly killed by the Maoists over the past three years.

Ministry officials pointed out that the ads were issued after Chidambaram decided to unveil a new media policy to deal with the “gravest danger to internal security”.

More such advertisements are expected in regional newspapers in the coming weeks. Short documentaries chronicling the “misguided agenda” of the rebels will also be shown on Doordarshan and other electronic media, an official said.

“There will be no single strategy to combat the Maoists. It will be a combination of many approaches with better coordination among the affected states.”

Similarly, the government has also offered surrendering rebels a series of sops, including vocational training along with a monthly stipend of Rs.2,000 for up to three years and Rs.150,000 in fixed deposit.

The surrender-and-rehabilitation guidelines for Maoists will apply to the hardcore, underground cadres, both with or without weapons. The overground supporters and sympathisers can avail of the benefits under the scheme only in exceptional cases.