India is the largest democracy in the world today. It has come a long way from the clutches of the British to be able to afford a life of dignity and respect for its citizens. Although, the path to this progress has been tainted by many evils such as corruption, disharmony with the neighbouring countries and religious violence, the threat of naxal in the red corridor area of the country still remains the most imposing internal threat to the rule of law in the subcontinent.
Naxalism, also studied as the Naxalist-Maoist insurgency in India, is an ongoing conflict between the Indian Government and the Communist Party of India. The armed wing of the Maoists, called as the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army is estimated to have around 6500 to 9500 cadres. The movement has resulted in over 13000 deaths since its emergence. The Maoist believe that the Indian state is being run by “run by a collaboration of imperialists, the bourgeoisie and feudal lords” and are committed to a protracted armed struggle to undermine and seize power from the state.
Naxalism or the Naxalite movement in India has its origin in the year 1967, twenty years after the country won a long and hard fought war for its independence. The government had implanted land ceiling laws which completely ignored the rights of the farmers. The years of neglect caused them to lose faith in the political system and paved the way for an armed rebellion against the government by the farmers, with a view to establishing their own rule. This Naxal uprising took place on May 26th, 1967 in Naxalbari, a village in West Bengal and spread gradually in the neighboring states of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Bihar.
Today the radical, extreme communists have come to be known as naxals or naxalites informally. The eastern, central and southern parts of the country which are characterized by left wing extremism is dubbed the ‘Red Corridor Area’ which has engulfed about 105 districts over 09 states as of December 2017. These parts of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal are also the ones that are the least immune to illiteracy, poverty and unemployment. This region is primarily characterized by non diverse economies supported solely by agriculture and only sometimes supported by mining or forestry.
Bastar district in Chhattisgarh has been the hub of extreme naxal violence. The district is one of the many where elections and other political schemes and activities are routinely outlined by casualties at the hands of naxalites. The Naxalite-Maoist insurgency has claimed the lives of more than a fair share of locals and government authorities at several instances. The movement caught international attention after the 2013 naxal attack in the Darbha valley that killed 24 leaders of Congress.
On July 13, 2018 at Sukma, Chhattisgarh, an encounter between the Maoist and Central Reserve Police force resulted in deaths of 24 Jawans of the 74th battalion. The troops were ambushed at Kala Pathar at 12:30 pm. Constable Sher Mohammad, who was among the injured who were evacuated to a hospital in Raipur told the reporters that they were attacked by about 300 Maoists including women cadres, while they were on road construction duties.
In the Lok Sabha election of April 2019, sitting member of the legislative assembly of Dantewada Bhima Mandavi was assassinated in an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attack on the 9th of April. In attempts to agitate the functioning of the electorate process, the naxals executed several IED blasts in the span of three days. About 60,000 state police and central paramilitary personnel were deployed across the Bastar district, which ensured a 21.1% voter turnout.
Naxal activities have reportedly been spreading to the urban centers of the sub continent in recent times. Attempts have been made to organize protests against the government. In August 2007, Mumbai, the anti terrorist squad reported to have busted a Maoist organization trying to recruit people and collect funds for the organisations. The police believe that the Maoist organizations have plans to take their war in urban cities such as Bengaluru, Surat and Calcutta. They also speculate that these naxals have articulated a strategy to target children and unemployed youth in urban centers.
Vast legislation has been framed by the Government to curb naxal violence and terrorism within the Maoist organisations. Forest Rights Act of 2006 finally recognized the Scheduled tribes and Forest dwellers, who had been overlooked by the law so far despite of spending their lives in the forest. The Ministry of Forest and Environment also provided a hectare of land for non forest purposes under this Act.
In one of the states most affected by the organisations, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Securities Act was enacted in 2006 which declared organisations unlawful and set up Advisory boards wherever deemed necessary. These boards having the power to notify a place that has been a hub for unlawful activities and occupy that place thereof.
With a view to minimize displacement, the Government issued the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy of 2007 to relocate the tribals who lost their residence in the process of industrialization. Under this policy in exchange for land, the dwellers will be given, job prospective to at least one member of the family, vocational training and housing benefits including houses to people in rural areas and urban areas will be some of the benefits.
As per the Unlawful activities prevention act the government has declared all organisations that have any connections with any Naxal movements like the MCC or the CPI-M (Marxist-Leninist) as terrorist organizations. There was no persistent need of this bill to tackle Naxalism. This bill was formulated, only to silence the appropriate discord and dissent brewing in the minds of people in the areas affected by Naxalism due to the continued ignorance of the government towards their situation.
The apex court in 2011 rapped the Chhattisgarh Government for treating historian Ramchandra Guha, academic Nandini Sundar, social activist Swami Agnivesh and former bureaucrat EAS Sarma as Maoists or supporters of Maoists, for speaking up for the human rights of citizens. The Court held, “ What was doubly dismaying to us was the repeated insistence…that the only option for the state was to rule with an iron fist, establish a social order in which every person is to be treated as suspect and anyone speaking for human rights of citizens to be deemed as suspect, and a Maoist” The court reprimanded the state as blind for claiming that anyone who questioned the rampant inhumanity in the state to be a Maoist or their sympathizer.
The Supreme Court of India in 2016, sympathized with the marginalized forest people blatantly neglected by the state, saying ‘Indian State, with its blinkered vision of development, is responsible’ for the rise in naxalism. In a landmark judgement the apex court held “A blinkered vision of development, complete apathy towards those who are highly adversely affected by the development process and a cynical unconcern for the enforcement of the laws led to a situation where the rights and benefits promised and guaranteed under the constitution hardly ever reach the most marginalized citizens.” It further added “to millions of Indians, development is a dreadful and hateful word that is aimed at denying them even the source of their sustenance… on the path of ‘maldevelopment’ almost every step that we take seems to give rise to insurgency and political extremism”
The approach taken by the state to suppress the insurgence with vigilante groups is in dire need of serious reconsideration and amendment. On a closer look, it is apparent that the marginalized tribes have taken up arms solely due to their disillusionment with the political system and have little to do with the extreme leftist policies and declarations. The farmers at the center of this state sponsored exploitation are caught in between the wide chasm of promises made by the state and their eventual deliverance.
The solution to the naxal problem lies in what is considered to be the answer to most problems in the nation, social inclusive development and bridging the economic gap. The primary reason for naxalism appears to be the exploitation and neglect that the tribals and forest dwellers have felt at the hands of the Government. The straight-forward answer to this issue seems to be in providing incentives and all-round development schemes to the downtrodden, which would assist them in building a secure life for themselves, thus creating confidence in the political system and guiding them off the path of violence.