What would be the most effective way for the Indian government to respond to the Maoist insurgency?
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the Maoist guerrillas also known as Naxalites the biggest threat to internal security in 2006. He reiterated that Maoist guerrillas have stepped up their insurgency and a dedicated security force must be set up to eliminate "this virus" one year later in December 2007.
Only 10 years ago the rebels were active in just four states. Now security experts say they are entrenched in a vast eastern and central belt that stretches across country’s border with Nepal known as the "red corridor." Around 15 of India’s 29 states are now affected by Maoist violence. Naxalites or Naxals as are called by their own comrades, command a well trained guerillas group of 20,000 strong men.
The Maoist insurgency has intensified over the last two years and is beginning to attract the kind of national and international attention. They have extended their rebel from the formerly troubled Kashmir or the northeast of India’s poorest regions. Places where ethnic tribes and the poverty-stricken live in extreme distress.
"It continues to be so and we cannot rest in peace till we have eliminated this virus," Singh told an internal security meeting attended by state chief ministers in the Indian capital recently. "Not a day passes without an incident of Maoist extremism taking place somewhere or the other," he added
Naxalites regularly plant landmines, blow up rail tracks and attack police vehicles. There is increasing violence being carried out by the guerrillas. In recent months, a train hijacking and a dramatic jailbreak in which hundreds of prisoners escaped from Dante Wada prison are causing New Delhi with deep concern.
Orders are being issued from the central government to the local states to get tough with the Maoists. Andhra Pradesh, police chief, Swaranjit Sen, says they are heeding the message. “We have gained the upper hand statistically. “For the first time, more Naxals have been shot down than police officers and civilians”, boasted the proud chief.
Other affected states have begun beefing up and modernizing their police forces to cope with the problem. In some places, the government is encouraging the formation of village-defense forces to hunt down the Maoists.
Singh also called for better intelligence and militants to combat the outlaws. "We need to cripple Naxalite (Maoist) forces with all the means at our command," he said. He ordered all the states to set up a "dedicated specialize forces to eliminate extremism.
Singh sounds like an echo of the late General Supreme – Chiang Kai-shek to me. Chiang, the former Chinese Kuomintang or Nationalist Party leader, ordered his soldiers to crashed the Maoist movement. Mao led the poor peasants to fight the fully armed mighty Chiang and ousted him out the mainland in 1949. He was merely survived in Taiwan only with the strong US military back up then.
History has told us time and again as in France, China, Russia, Vietnam, etc. that suppression will never work to solve the insurgency of the poor. Guerrillas are not villains, culprits or outlaws of the society. They are the poor, under privilege and the suffered. They normally operate in areas where security forces are thinly spread, and sustain themselves on food given by villagers. Simply put, a more British Robin hood style than the Scandinavian Pirate. They have the love of the people.
It would be a grave mistake for India to treat the Maoists as a law and order problem. India must realize that the rebellion thrives on the support of those impacted by continuing underdevelopment.
The problem is more of a social and economical than a military one. The situation is actually being aggravated by the brisk economy in the urban east and south. Bollywood and the IT boom may be a boon to the New India, but it widen the gap of the have and have not further. Thus, it opens up the door for more dissident poor to rebel. It ended that we are not fight the rebel but the people of the land. It is a no win war.
One and only way to solve the problem is to take a social and economical approach to follow with law and order clean up. This is not a hypothetical or educational theories, it has been applied in many countries with success.
Thailand, in as late as 1985, was plagued with 40 % of communist red areas. University students ran up the hill in great numbers to carry gun against the dictatorial ruler. Years of iron hand military suppression did no well to the predicament. The situation seemed to be out of control. Communism became a real threat to the nation.
A new approach was being mapped out by the then Army in chief General Prem Tinsulanon and his successor General Chavalit Yongjaiyuth to cope with the dilemma.
First it was an attitude shift. The government admitted they must really listen to the plight of the people. It must be sincere and deliver the message across effectively to those who protest. This means to spell out the sincerity to the people in the rampant regions.
This is to follow with a social pardon for those who lay down their guns. A rehabilitation training program with a guaranteeing job should be able to lure back some followers. This is a series program to be carried out in stages. It is, therefore, vitally important to make the first batch who returns a success. The next and more will then follow.
Third is an economic cure. Resources were poured in to the poor rural areas. Buildings and services were spread out from the central to the problematic regions. Universities and hospitals were built and teachers and doctors were given incentive to migrate to work.
The final step is to instill law and order. For the hard-liners, there is no other way but to resort to harsh action. After sufficient years are given to the program to work, a final ultimatum would be issued for those who refuse to yield. The number will be minimal and they do not normally have the support of the people.
Those who were self proclaimed communists fighting with their guns are all working as lecturers, businessmen, prominent politicians, and ministers in their 50’s now.
What would be the most effective way for the Indian government to respond to the Maoist insurgency? The answer is clear.