Naxalism and its innocent victims
by R Kashyap on 15 Dec 2011 12 Comments

Recently the West Bengal police and CRPF jointly eliminated one of the country’s most dangerous Naxal leaders, Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, in the West Midnapore district, just 10 km from Jharkhand. Kishenji was reputedly the number three in the organizational hierarchy.

The violent encounter surprised observers across the political spectrum, as it is an open secret that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee elicited Naxal support for her election campaign and advocated a measure of dialogue with the group in the hope of curtailing the creed’s violence. But seven months in office doubtless brought the Chief Minister face to face with some bitter realities and hence, she manfully took a 360 degree turn and ordered the launch of anti-Naxal operations in West Bengal.

The death of one of the principal Naxal leaders is ample testimony to her official tryst with truth. According to West Bengal security forces, Naxal dominance over civil life had become so unbearable that Ms Banerjee was left with no option but to move fast to restore the dignity of civil life. The rest is history …

This is not the first time the Chief Minister of a State has bitten the bullet after briefly romancing the Naxals. Previously, Lalu Prasad Yadav (Bihar) and Shibu Soren (Jharkhand) have walked down the same path. Yet Ms Banerjee’s change of stance, seen in the backdrop of the apathy of other political leaders over the years, indicates the ignorance about the problem in the collective national psyche, including the national press. Even a direct warning by no less a person than the Prime Minister has not resulted in any tangible change in perception; he has even defined Naxalism as the single largest internal security challenge faced by the country.

Today Naxalism has spread its vicious tentacles over almost one third of our landmass. Naxals are active in 180 districts in ten states, the worst affected being Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh.

What makes Naxalism such a public menace? The threat lays not in their reach or spread, but in their ideological and political objective of complete dominance of civil life, something unacceptable to any civilized society. In Naxal-controlled areas, civil rights have ceased to exist and the area commander is god incarnate.

Naxalism is an ultra-violent movement which believes in the discarded ideology of communism. It is said to be inspired by Mao Zedong’s method of the Long March, with the same aim of capturing India as Mao captured China. It disregards the fact that times have changed and that it is not possible to defeat democracy by violence. Still, Naxals persist in acts of unmitigated violence against innocent civilians, causing immense damage to the local populace in areas where they have a presence.

Over the past decade, from 2001 till date, Naxals have killed almost 5500 innocent civilians, not to mention security personnel. This is to say that so many families across the nation have lost their near and dear ones, many the sole breadwinners, for no legitimate reason; their cries are unheard and their voices muffled under the cacophony of mindless glorification of brutal violence by those who should know better, but receive huge patronage from forces seeking to undermine the nation. It is a sad commentary on the Indian media that they manage to hog so much media attention.

The fatality figure is just the tip of the iceberg; the impact of Naxal atrocity is a hundred times more intense. People are still abducted for ransom; they are subjected to torture and their limbs amputated; innocent girls are forced into marriage with Naxal cadres. It is not humanly possible to consolidate and tabulate Naxal atrocities, so great is their volume and spread. Unfortunately, Naxal violence is on the upswing despite concerted efforts by over-stretched security forces.

In recent times, the national media has tended to – erroneously – paint Naxalism as a mass movement of tribals against the exploitation of the natural resources by corporates. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The hapless tribals are in fact the biggest casualty of Naxal violence. But Naxal atrocities are not considered ‘good copy’ for the media, possibly on account of problems of reach, the risk involved in coverage, and the apathy of the middle class Indian to the sufferings of fellow citizens. Hence, the persecution and exploitation of local populations finds no mention in the media. This kind of one-sided depiction of reality has given Naxals the moral authority to instigate violence against anyone and everyone who does not accept their dictates.

Operations by security forces are only one part of the solution. There is need for a comprehensive approach. Naxalism is like a parasitic creeper which survives by sucking the nourishment of the tree on which it leans for support. To eliminate Naxalism, we will have to understand how Naxals operate at grassroots level. No one can explain this aspect of reality better than its victims.

In a few days, some victims of Naxal violence are coming to the capital for the first time in order to convey their plight to their fellow countrymen. The victims will hold a candlelight march at Jantar Mantar and a rally at the same venue the next day. It is hoped that some young Members of Parliament will be sufficiently sensitive to the traumas lived by these innocents and find the time to join the rally and show solidarity with these ravaged families, whom the nation has so far failed. This is the first-ever gathering of Naxal victims in the capital. Citizens who lustily joined Anna Hazare and his questionable colleagues without interrogating their funding or multiple agendas owe it to the nation to step forward to extend moral support to those who are batting for India in remote and lonely hamlets, braving bullets and untold brutalities but refusing to submit to anti-national and subversive agendas.

The author is a keen observer of anti-Naxal operations in various theatres; the views expressed are personal

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