Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Maoists Attack in Chhattisgarh: Urgent Steps Required

The cowardly and barbaric attack on a convoy of Congress leaders and workers at Jeeram Ghati in Jagdalpur district of Chhattisgarh recently resulting in the loss of many precious lives should be an urgent wake-up call for the entire nation.

It is regrettable to note that this moment of grief and introspection is being turned into a 24x7 media spectacle with leaders on both sides of the political divide engaging in a blame game and manufacturing conspiracy theories whereas the discourse should be on tackling this menace with a multi-pronged approach including putting in place a realistic threat assessment mechanism, enhanced cooperation and better coordination between the Centre and the states, capacity building and taking development to the grassroots level.

Let us face it. Such a shameful incident does not help any political dispensation or police establishment. While responsibility needs to be fixed, apportioning blame is no solution. The first and foremost ingredient in the war against Naxalism has to be political will. Andhra Pradesh had shown the way over two decades back and there is no reason why there cannot be a more effective encore in other Maoist-affected states as well.

Given the inter-State and global nature of the threat, the Union Government is duty bound under Article 355 to “protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance.”

Unfortunately, despite being dubbed as “India’s greatest internal security threat”, the fact remains that threat assessment of Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) has not been realistic. LWE is no more a ‘public order’ issue, and falls well within the innermost circle of what Justice Hidayatullah called “three concentric circles” of threats.

Capacity building, therefore, has to be taken up with utmost urgency. Firstly, even though the local police forces are first responders, they are considered the weakest link in the entire response chain. What India requires is, as the Padmanabhaiah Committee advocated, a “highly motivated, professionally-skilled, infrastructurally self-sufficient and sophisticatedly trained police force.” Although the Army’s successful track record in counter-insurgency is well established, its primary role is to safeguard the country’s territorial integrity from any external aggression. The Army, therefore, can be best utilised in training CPOs and State police forces in counter-insurgency tactics, techniques and procedures. Secondly, the key to success in fighting Naxals effectively lies in obtaining accurate and reliable intelligence. The Centre should enhance the States’ ability to ‘expect the unexpected’. Thirdly, it is also important to develop a strong participatory mechanism involving the masses in the Naxal-affected areas.

The situation calls for a much more mature and measured response from the stake holders including Governments and political parties. It is time for some real action and not rhetoric.

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