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Solving the Maoist problem will require better strategy: Praveen Swami

Updated: May 27, 2013, 6:03 PM IST
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Solving the Maoist problem will require better strategy: Praveen Swami
Journalist Praveen Swami joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the big Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh.

The Maoists in a planned ambush have killed 28 people, injuring many others and almost wiping out a substantial part of the state Congress top brass. So were the Centre and state government's assertions of the Maoists being on the backfoot just propaganda? How will the Indian state respond to this attack on its political class? Journalist Praveen Swami joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the issue.

Q. Land mine blast, 250 maoist mobilized,aware on leaders and routes. It seems well organised attack and they got information very well before? Asked by: hari

A. The Congress leaders in Darba seem to have decided to travel at the last moment-so there was probably no advance information, though we can't say for certain. The ambush seems to have been planned well in advance, probably knowing that Mahendra Karma would pass through some time or the other during the Congress mobilisation. The Maoists possibly got a bigger prize than they expected.

Q. What do you think that could be the solution of the naxalism. If there are some retribution on naxals for what that happened would again create a never ending violent saga like how the situation is in Africa.Peace Talks alone too cant give a solution.This is very complicated issue as the enemy is our own Indian people. Asked by: Kisalay

A. It is a complicated issue-but there can't be development, in my view, unless there's security first. So, that has to be the priority

Q. As per Media News its understand that Last minute local congress leaders changed the route, it its true own party people involved in this attack? Asked by: hari

A. No, that doesn't follow-though of course, its possible. The Maoists could have had informers at the rally to report when the leaders left. Or, because there are only two roads between Sukma and Jagdalpur, there could have been ambushes on both routes. We don't know.

Q. If Srinlanka can decimate LTTE India cannot win over Naxals? Asked by: cheena

A. These are not comparable situations-the Maoists are not fighting a conventional war. There is no Maoist army to bombard with artillery and air power

Q. This bloody UPA is selling our country...every inch of our resource is on sale..why should we all not become Maoists. Asked by: Prashant Brahmin

A. Please go ahead. Its your choice.

Q. Praveen, you have been great proponent of iron fist approach to the Maoist problem. My question is - Are Maoists really that wrong in what they are doing and what they are fighting for? Asked by: Prashant Brahmin

A. What you mean by an iron fist, I don't know; I've never used that phrase or called for it to be used, because I think these kinds of phrases are meaningless. But yes, they're wrong. I think everyone's entitled to fight for any cause they like politically, through peaceful means. If you violence, whatever your cause, you're a criminal and that's that.

Q. Why's isn't the govt of India using the Army against the Maoists. Isn't this incident serious enough to warrant tough measures. What is the GOI, and MHA worried about? Asked by: Narayan

A. Few experts think using the army would be wise. The army is trained and equipped to fight conventional wars-not low-intensity conflicts. It has had a mixed record-after all, the army fought for years in the north-east and Kashmir without stellar success. Insurgencies need special skills, and the police and PMFs are best equipped for this role. Sadly, the government isn't doing enough to develop their capacities to deal with the problem.

Q. How could the Congress blame the state govt. when the route protocol was changed by one of the Congress leader? Asked by: Satish Kumar

A. The state government is being blamed for not providing adequate security, which is a valid criticism. The problem is, there aren't enough forces to to provide that kind of security all the time. Law and order is a state subject, though-so the state government has to take its share of the rap

Q. We must have a effective leader in the police fore like KPS Gill to crush this Maoist menace? Asked by: Prathap

A. I'm afraid counter-insurgency isn't like Bollywood-no Ek Tha Tiger who can go and beat up all the bad guys. KPS Gill was tactically brilliant, but also succeeded because he had political support, as well as solid backup from committed second-rung officers. Those conditions are missing Chhattisgarh.

Q. Who is supporting the naxals..in terms of money and amunations? Asked by: Jana

A. The money comes mostly from extortion-big industrial houses operating in the area cough up in return for peace. The Maoists also make a lot of money from extortion from government development projects, transporters and so on. The guns are mostly looted from police. I guess you could say the Maoists are a 100 percent Government of India enterprise...

Q. Why the central government is reluctant to deploy the army? Some years back the then Army chief had stated that the armed naxal movement can be completly stooped within 3 months spread across several states. Asked by: sreenivas

A. I don't recall any army chief saying this, but if someone did, it was a remarkably stupid thing to say. Insurgencies take years to fight-even for security forces far better resourced than our own. Both P Chidambaram and his home secretary, GK Pillai, made all sorts of well-fix-this-tomorrow claims, which have been belied by time.

Q. Why after such repeated attacks nothing has changed in the ground? Media debates follow who has failed center or the state and inevitably human right people will jump into the bandwagon to shout from the rooftop about the rights of accused only and forget the victims? Are we running out of ideas to combat and contain this menace? Asked by: mohan

A. I suspect nothing has changed because the tribal areas of Chhattisgarh isn't important enough to anyone to really be bothered. There's no shortage of knowledge on what needs to be done to solve the problem, starting with capacity development for security forces. The problem is the political will not being there to do what needs to be done.

Q. I think we need to follow the same method which we followed to suppress terror in Punjab. Asked by: Sathyaki

A. I'll just say that Punjab was small, road-accessible, relatively affluent, well-resourced, and had no jungles. Chhatisgarh is massive, with no road access, very poor, under-resourced and forested. The same tactics that work in place A will not work in place B.

Q. What are the demands of naxals..why are they continuing there movement against the government? Asked by: maruti

A. The Maoists want a people's revolution to overthrow the Indian republic. They believe the poor will not get justice and equity within a capitalist order. You can find lots on their demands on the net.

Q. Where are the Maoists getting sophisticated weapons from? It seems like China. If this is right, is there any way this can be taken up bilaterally. Asked by: Narayan

A. There is no evidence that any Maoist weapons have come from China. Most weapons used in encounters have been looted from police.

Q. Do you think its high time that the GOI deploys combative air-power (air-force, helicopters) and the Army to secure Maoist strongholds so as to be able to bring development in that region? Asked by: Sikhar Banerjee

A. There are no hardened Maoist targets to bomb or strafe, so this would be a waste of resources-and counterproductive, since innocents would be killed. There is a desperate need, though, for better air surveillance resources, as well as more helicopters for improved operational mobility, since land-mines have denied use of even the limited road network.

Q. The exploitation of tribals by the officials of police and forest dept. has given such impetus to Maoism in tribal areas. What measures, if any, are being taken now to ensure that this exploitation is no longer continued? Asked by: Abhishek Dixit

A. There is large-scale corruption in Chhattisgarh, as there is in India. The poorest are the worst victims of corruption, as they are elsewhere in India. However, if we wait for corruption to be stamped out before dealing with the security problem, I suspect we will be waiting a very long time.

Q. Trying to bring Naxal into the main stream.is this oing to solve the problem Asked by: Rakka

A. The Maoists don't want to come into the mainstream-they want to overthrow the existing order.

Q. Intelligence inputs gets ignored - a normal charge. Is it that or the naxals have a better counter intelligence unit? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. In this case, there were no intelligence inputs. There was a generally warning of heightened Maoist activity in the pre-monsoon season, but you don't need spies to tell you that-any journalist covering the conflict also knows this. Such vague, general warnings are useless.

Q. More than 60 yrs of Independence, we are still debating " Y" Maoisim, both the mainstream parties had an opportunity to rule the centre and the state. Nothing, has happened. Its time to set a deadline, ask them to lay the arms or come for discussion, if not in India abroad and put an end to this. Else, government should go for all out war, use all the force at its command and bring them to books. Asked by: SE

A. An all-out war with who? They are not another country or an army you can have an all-out war with.

Q. Is glamorizing Maoists by the Elm Field or trumpeting that Islamic terrorism is due to poverty and lack of education among Muslims and depicting ISI terrorists as Badla Heroes not trying to deceive the people? Asked by: raghavaraokaravadi

A. I think glamourising anyone-whether they're Maoists or IPL stars or politicians or godmen-is not very wise. Having said that, I think its important to understand what makes your adversaries tick.

Q. Is there any solution to this Naxal problem..or it will continue to exist. Asked by: Rohit

A. It will continue to exist, because we do not have the counter-insurgency capacities needed to fight it.

Q. Why should this incident be given so much importance just because dead includes politicians when there was no so much cry by politicians during previous attacks by naxals which killed police and the common man. Asked by: Ganesh

A. I'm afraid I find your attitude a little disturbing. Politicians are important to democracies. If we don't like them, we vote them out--not blow them up. There was plenty of reporting on past terrorist attacks on police and CRPF, by the way-you can look it upl

Q. Better strategy,Better arms and ammunition,better commitment to cause,better people support which one of this is the main reason for failure to eradicate the naxal movement? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. I think the first, though all are components of a response.

Q. The nasal movement is pro poor and this is growing in spite of the many pro poor benefits every government makes. Has the Government attempts failed or the middleman looting causes the Naxal movement to thrive. Asked by: sundar1950in

A. I'm not sure the Maoists are pro-poor--I do not see any evidence their actions are alleviating the suffering of the poor in any way.

Q. Since the persons who became victims were of the state's opposition and centre's ruling party so much of attention. Why did not centre react in same manner when sukumar's collector's convoy was ambushed? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. I did. It did exactly the same things its doing now.

Q. Why do we not see a bipartisan action of political parties on this serious issue of violence affection innocent people.? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Sadly, that's a sign of our times-we have a political culture made up of name-calling offline, and hashtag wars online.

Q. Why is it all forget that this one was not the first attack or ambush by Maoists. In central India almost four to five border states have the worry of tackling the threat. The centre as well as the states wake up to sleep again after an incident. Why the centre fails to take a long term strategic view and get all parties to act on it? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. That's a big question-but do you see any signs of seriousness on other important issues? I think there's a crisis of governance in India, and the poor response to the security challenge in Chhattisgarh is just one more manifestation of it.

Q. Was Chidambaram better handling this issue? I stay in Bengal Maoist zone and the situation here has changed for better drastically. Asked by: nishant

A. I don't think he was. There were many big promises made on capacity building, which have not been kept. If you look at most important indices-police training, manpower, etc-you'll see the situation isn't much better than 2008, when Chidambaram came to power. The situation in Bengal changed for a number of reasons-not the least being the Maoists got one of their important demands, a relatively less hostile state government that isn't going after them quite as aggressively.

Q. Amazing the way the everyone is jumping at this attack Sonia crying, Rahul giving strong statements, opposition condemning and wants to cooperate. Where were all of them when the 74 security personnel killed earlier. Just because politicians are killed all this is happening. Don't the security people killed also deserve the same treatment? Asked by: AKS

A. They all gave statements then also-please check. That's our national response to disaster-we give statements.

Q. Were the Congress politicians caught in the fight between Karma/Salwa Judum and the Maoists? Asked by: Arun Murthy

A. Mahendra Karma was a Congress politician, so I don't think its right to describe the Congress as "caught up" in a fight between Salva Judum and the Maoists

Q. Who owns major responsibility for security against the Maoist, State or Central Govt? whom to be blamed for the worst attack? Is it a risk taken by Top leaders of Congress? Asked by: hari

A. Its a risk, yes-but I think politicians deserve a lot of credit for risking their lives to keep political life going in such a dangerous area. In a democracy, it is the government's job to make sure normal political life goes on-so people can choose which leaders they want to represent them. The state government is responsible for the immediate failure, and the central government for the wider strategic failure.

Q. Is NCTC anyway concerned with this issue? Asked by: nishant

A. No

Q. Is this true that the quality of security provided to Congress and BJP rallies are different in Chattisgarh as alleged by some? Asked by: Kamal Agg

A. The chief minister got more security for his functions, yes. However, that is normal-since a high official is always more at threat.

Q. Do you see any internal conspiracy here? Asked by: nishant

A. I do not see any *evidence* of a conspiracy, and do not think there is any use to speculating unless there is some

Q. Ajit Jogi blaming State Govt (BJP) and no information on people who changed the route in last minute. Is it fair for Cong to politicise the very bloody attack on our politicians?? Asked by: hari

A. I do not think this is an occasion for political point-scoring, no.

First Published: May 27, 2013, 6:03 PM IST
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