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2-min read

Red Alert: India's Obscure War on Left Wing Extremism

With the killing of 26 CRPF personnel in an ambush at Sukma by Maoists, the government’s anti-Naxal strategy is under the spotlight once again.

Tushar Dhara | News18.com

Updated:April 24, 2017, 11:52 PM IST
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The Indian Army was always wary of getting sucked into a battle with the Naxalites in the heart of India. (Image for representation. Photo: Reuters)

New Delhi: With the killing of 25 CRPF personnel in an ambush at Sukma by Maoists, the government's anti-Naxal strategy is under the spotlight once again.

While states have followed their own strategies — from Chhattisgarh's controversial Salwa Judum civilian militias to Andhra Pradesh's Greyhounds, a special battalion of militarised police — the Union government's anti-LWE (left wing extremism) strategy has gone through drastic change since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.

The Modi government adopted a "short-term gains" approach, compared with the erstwhile Manmohan Singh government's "development" approach, which sought to quell extremism through a combination of land reforms and social justice, a process where the gains could only be measured in the long run.

The NDA approach relied on narrowing the focus to 25% of the "most Naxalite-affected area" spread across seven states, and posting the "best" IAS and IPS officers there. It was said that bringing order to these districts will simplify efforts in the remaining areas.

ALSO READ: Here's a Look at Recent Attacks on CRPF Personnel

The NDA approach came about because it was felt that the previous regime's strategy, which relied on Integrated Action Plan (IAP) formulated by the Planning Commission, was too broad and diffused to effectively deal with LWE. The Action Plan had a budget of over Rs 13,000 crore, and was expanded to cover over 80 districts affected by LWE in seven states.

The Rajnath Singh-led Home Ministry tweaked the IAP by focusing on block-level development, rather than the earlier approach of developing the district as a whole. Attempts were also made to reach out to Adivasi communities, who are often caught in the crossfire between the police and the Naxal.

However, all these approaches have suffered from serious lacuna. Even though Manmohan Singh described Naxalism as "the most serious internal security threat", it has not received the commensurate resources.

Unlike the Kashmir insurgency, or those raging in the North East (Naga, Manipur), the Indian Army was always wary of getting sucked into a battle with the Naxalites in the heart of India. With opposition from the armed forces, it was the police and paramilitary forces that shouldered the responsibility of fighting LWE.

Often, police forces were poorly trained and armed. For instance, the Salwa Judum militias were so undisciplined that they would do more harm than good by harassing civilians.

However, there were some instances of success, like Andhra Pradesh's Greyhounds, specialised police unit dedicated to anti-Naxal operations. The Greyhounds were given commando-style training, special weapons and let loose on the People’s War Group (PWG), the splinter of the original party formed by Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal, operating in Telangana and Andhra.

Amid numerous instances of human rights violations, the Greyhounds managed to decimate the PWG and drive it out of Andhra. So much so that in 2004, the PWG merged with the Maoist Communist Centre, operating out of Bihar and Jharkhand, to form the CPI-Maoist, which is now the biggest LWE force.

ALSO READ: 26 CRPF Men Killed in Encounter With Maoists at Sukma; Sacrifice Will Not Go in Vain, Says PM

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| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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