The Green Hunt, but the Red Haunts

By Soroor Ahmed,

The indigenous fountain-heads of inspiration, motivation and support for Maoists are inflicting more casualties on the security forces than the external ones. The April 6 Maoists’ attack, which killed 76 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in one go in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh state in central India is ample evidence to this fact. The Left extremists––or for that matter any other militant outfit––could never wreak so much havoc among security forces when they had moral, material and ideological backing from Maoist China between 1967 and 1972 or Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist Soviet Union immediately after independence.

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The Operation Green Hunt was launched by the Indian para-military forces, the CRPF, with the view to overcoming the Maoists, who now it seems are much more committed and have better fire power and organizational skill than anticipated. They are very much different from those Communist revolutionaries who carried out the Telengana revolt in 1948 and the Naxalbari insurrection of 1960s-70s.

Though the Maoists of today may be relying less on their comrades from outside they have compensated this disadvantage by other means. Unlike their earlier versions, Maoists of today have acquired much longer experience of taking on the security forces on their huge home turf. So while the Socialist India managed to crush two such revolts in a matter of few years the post-1991 India of free economy may have to go a long way.

The lesser dependence on the external support is, in one way, an advantage to the Maoist of today. They do not have to work under the external pressure. For example, the then Soviet leader Josef Stalin backed out when the Communists rebelled just after independence as he wanted to have a good relationship with India. This came as a big blow to the movement then.

As Naxalism travelled from the highland of Darjeeling district of West Bengal in late 1960s to reach the land-locked plateau of heartland of India in 21st century it passed through rough history as well as geography. In the way they lost the proximity to the international border and got ensconced in the deep forest and hills of the country––not far away from Telengana in Andhra Pradesh from where they started.

History stands as the testimony to the fact that unlike the northern Indian plains it was always difficult to conquer this part of the country. Though far away from international boundary and coast line they apparently got cut off from the external supply lines yet, thanks to the topography, they continued to grow stronger.

Till recently India had disturbed borders be it in North-East, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, or Darjeeling during the earlier Naxal upsurge, but now the deep forests in the interiors are up in flames. True the first Communist uprising also took place in Telengana, not far away from the present epicentre of violence in 1948, yet it is a fact that the situation in the new-born India, especially in the Deccan Plateau, was quite different. The Indian state was at the same time taking action against the Nizam of Hyderabad––the Telengana region was part of it.

Unlike in the past large-scale blasts-cum-ambushes by Maoists on security forces started taking place at the turn of the 21st century. Earlier the armed resistance was of a different form in Andhra Pradesh. The Naxals of West Bengal indulged in targeted killing as well while in Bihar they massacred landed class, many times in revenge.

Three months before the advent of 21st century 37 policemen were killed in land-mine blasts on the parliamentary election day in Hazaribagh district of Bihar in September 1999. Then the Maoists turned their heat on the new-born state of Jharkhand, which lost more than 200 personnel in several daring attacks on police stations and land-mine blasts on convoys. Even the insurgency-hit Jammu and Kashmir did not lose so much securitymen in that period.

Chhattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal were next in the list. In March 2007 as high as 55 police personnel were killed in a similar explosion-cum-ambush in Chhattisgarh. In all these attacks the purpose was to inflict casualties and loot arms. As these states are mineral-rich and dynamites are used in mines there is no dearth of smuggled explosive for them. Besides, such huge track of land was never available to them in the early revolts.

Be it the March 2007 land-mine blast-cum ambush or the April 6 one––or many other such incidents––the tragedy is that the security forces were taken completely off guard and failed to inflict any casualty on the Maoists.

The scale of devastation caused by these land-mine explosions-cum ambushes is much more than what the ultras in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir or North-East could do. However, it is also true that the insurgents in these bordering states also took on Indian army while the Maoists are essentially fighting the para-military forces. It is also true that many army personnel lost their lives in Operation Blue Star launched in June 1984 to get rid of Sikh militants holed up inside the Golden Temple. But then the army killed many times more the Sikh militants, including their leader, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. In the case of Maoists the security personnel are repeatedly proving sitting-ducks for them. In retaliation, it is alleged, they kill innocent villagers and tribals.

The fact is that over the years the Indian state allowed the Maoists to grow strong. The pro-capitalist economic policy created more poor in the rural areas, where starvation and suicide are quite rampant. Besides, the country’s establishment as well as the media concentrated more on the militancy having the backing from across the border and not the one growing within. The act of terror in the urban centres like Mumbai, Malegaon, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad etc got much more media coverage than the repeated massacres of security forces in Chhattisgarh, the daring jail-break in Bihar, loot of 2,000 rifles in one strike in Orissa and virtual take over of Lalgarh township in West Bengal.