Each time there is an attack on the security forces fighting the Maoists in the so-called red corridor, the whole nation wakes up to the problem of Maoism and how it is affecting India. Maoists are terrorists fighting the Indian state. Their aim is the destabilisation of India. Communist Party of India (Maoist) is known to be the world’s fifth-largest terrorist organisation. It has carried out several co-ordinated terror attacks in the past decade. Maoist supporters and over-ground strategists residing in cities always condone Maoist cruelty and justify the acts of terror by calling it the ‘people’s war for tribals rights’. Whereas, in reality, it is the tribals who are the worst victims of Maoist terror.
Two generations of tribal people in Chhattisgarh have been suffering from Maoist terror. Even survival has become a big challenge for them. Development is a distant dream. In 2005, tribal victims of Maoist terror in the state started a spontaneous counter-movement against the Maoists. This movement is widely known as ‘Salwa Judum’. However, politics, apathy of government officials, the ignorance of bureaucrats operating from air-conditioned offices in Raipur and Delhi and the deeply entrenched urban Maoist lobby ensured that Salwa Judum was demonised and banned. Even today, thousands of tribals who had participated in the Salwa Judum live in rehabilitation camps as refugees, as they do not have the option to return to their villages due to fear of retribution from Maoists.
Maoist supporters and their strategists from urban areas, on the one hand, sell Maoism as a just battle for tribal rights and, on the other hand, oppress the basic human rights of the local people in Bastar with impunity. Education is their worst enemy. Maoists target schools to stop tribals from being educated and to ensure continuous recruitment for their Dalam cadre.
In the interior villages of Bastar, Maoists have issued fatwas that no child will attend school after fifth grade. The purpose behind this dictate is clear – Maoists want the youth to be literate but not educated enough to gain employment. It is this semi-literate youth force that is most likely to be forced to join Maoist Dalams. In many parts of Bastar, parents are forced to keep their school-going children away from home in residential ashram shalas. There have been several cases of forcible abduction of children by Maoists for Dalam recruitment.
Maoists have shut down weekly markets in many places in Bastar as these markets provide a way for the tribal people to earn a living. Tribal people survive on the sale of forest produce. Due to the forced closure of markets, they have no avenues to sell their produce. So they are forced to rot in abject poverty. Security forces have resumed markets in some villages by providing protection. The Bhejji market is one of them. In March this year, Maoists had carried out an attack in Bhejji on Saturday, their weekly market day.
The so-called ‘Jan Adalats’ (kangaroo courts) are another example of Maoist cruelty and dictatorship, where they deliver ‘justice’ at gunpoint. Several innocent villagers who have been accused of being police informers have been hacked to death in these Jan Adalats. In one such Jan Adalat in Bijapur, a villager named Aaytu was accused of being a police informer. However, he escaped from Maoist captivity. The infuriated Maoists beat up his wife and his four-month-old baby. The baby died of the injuries.
Maoists also do not allow villagers to avail any development schemes by the government. In some extreme interior areas of Bastar, Maoists do not even allow the children of tribals to be vaccinated. Parents have been brutally slaughtered in front of their children. Some children from ashram shalas often wake up screaming at night due to nightmares of Maoist violence. Such are the festering wounds of red terror.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is currently raising a ‘Bastariya Battalion’, a force primarily manned by local tribal youths. It conducted a two-month preparatory training for tribal youth with the support of the local administration. Thousands of tribal youths from the districts of Bijapur, Dantewada, Sukma, Narayanpur applied for it. Selected candidates will be joining CRPF in the coming months. However, thousands of rejected candidates do not have the option of returning home as Maoists will kill them. So they are stuck in camps. In Dantewada, two such youngsters were killed when they went home for the weekend during preparatory training.
Development is impossible in Chhattisgarh without the security forces. Road construction needs security. Mobile towers have to be installed within the premises of police stations or CRPF camps, otherwise Maoists burn them. Weekly markets can not function without the forces. There are many incidents of tribals migrating to areas near police stations or CRPF camps for their survival. Such is the all-pervading threat of Maoist violence.
Jungle warfare in an unfamiliar terrain is one of the challenges security forces face in this area. In addition, Maoist front organisations operating under the guise of non-governmental work actively to demoralise the forces by raising fake cases of human rights violations and abuses. The government is emphasising on development activities and operations by security forces. However, no serious action is being taken against the Maoist front organisations working from urban areas or their representatives in Bastar.
Lack of a comprehensive, all-round strategy to counter this urban network of Maoists is a matter of concern. Security forces conduct enquiries against concerned jawans or officers if there are rape allegations against them. However, when the allegations are proven false, after the medical examination of alleged victims, no legal action is taken against the accusers for lodging fake complaints. Neither political leaders nor administrative officials condemn these fake allegations against the forces.
Maoists operating in Bastar are puppets of their intellectual strategists operating from urban areas. Unless the urban Maoist network is destroyed, it is impossible to end the problem of Maoism. Even Maoists who have surrendered say Maoism in Bastar is surviving because of urban Maoists, who are the real masterminds of this war against India. They misuse provisions of democracy to destroy democracy. To defeat Maoism in India for good, there is a need for a comprehensive strategy to tackle urban Maoists.
Author is a Research Scholar with Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS).