States Must Demonstrate Concern For The Poor
The Statesman (Editorial)
Extremist outfits in Bastar district, MP, and areas adjacent to the eastern Maharashtra have recently stepped up their offensive. Here jungle, inaccessible areas, the poverty-stricken tribal belt and the exploited people have given a good handle to the extremists. A guerrilla army was formed in Chhattisgarh and recruitment is in progress. They have modified their strategy and are not inclined to be blindly guided by the PWG. After formation of Chhattisgarh state, the terrorists are demanding a separate Bastar state. Recently they organised rallies in four towns and secured encouraging support from the tribals. The MCC's atrocities in Bihar have become alarming. The barbarous killing of 14 persons, including 13 members of the Gram Rakhi Dal at Belpur in Hazaribagh district, annihilation of three innocent tourists near the Mahuadar forest of Jamui district on 11 April, blast of a powerful land mine during practice near Kalna forest, Nawada district, reveal their determination and operational skill.
During the Lok Sabha poll in 1999, they killed three polling personnel in a land mine explosion, at Khaira Block, Jamui. The MCC gave a call to boycott the panchayat election held in April and issued a writ directing the people to stay indoors on polling day. Panic-stricken, polling officers were hesitant to discharge their duties. Voters were equally frightened.
Extremists attacked a police camp, killed two cops, took away four rifles and attacked the SP's motorcade in Palamau district. Luckily, the SP was unhurt. At Kanda valley, Palamau, ultras overpowered the police party, killed a cop, injured three and snatched away three rifles. Ultras boarded a train at Harubera station, near Muri, attacked six GRP escorts, mercilessly assaulted them and snatched away five rifles and 200 rounds of ammunition. Terrorism is gradually spreading in Mirzapur, Sonbhadra and Chanauti districts of UP. The MCC killed the SHO and a constable of Nuagarh PS. In March, 15 ultras including the area commander were killed in an encounter at Bhawanipur and six guns and plenty of ammunition were seized. Jungle and hills lying on the border of Bihar and Mirzapur district, UP are selected for continued militant activities.
Being adjacent to AP, the western part of Orissa, Gajapati, Raygada, Koraput, Malkangiri, often face the PWG's wrath. In the erstwhile subdivision of Parlakhemdi of Ganjam district, now Gajapati, adjacent to Parvatipuram agency area of AP, the PWG has established a hideout in the jungle, often operating in the territory of the neighbouring state. Malkangiri (Dandakaranya) borders Bhadrachalam of Andhra and Bastar of MP. In Motu and Kalimela, the PWG has built a sanctuary, operate in AP and take shelter in Orissa. In the border areas of both states, more than 90 per cent of the inhabitants are tribals, their dialect is mixed, poverty knows no bounds. Exploitation by the kumtis, a trading community, and money lenders make their life well-nigh unbearable. Former Naxalite leaders, Naga Bhusan Patnaik, Surjya Reddy, succeeded in capitalising on the sentiment of the outraged people and gave the Naxalite cult a new dimension. Their successors have kept the movement alive. On 13 March the PWG attacked the anti-Naxalite post at Upalada (Gajapati) and killed two armed policemen and looted two rifles and ammunition. Police registered cases against 40 persons and unleashed a reign of terror, resulting in many tribals fleeing the villages and taking shelter inside dense jungles and hill-tops.
The PWG, instead of succumbing to pressure, warned the police. Recently, the PWG attacked an anti-Naxalite picket at Gothalpadas village, in Raygada district. Exchange of fire continued for several hours. Similar attacks took place on police posts at Malkangiri, Kalimala and Gajapati. Ultras killed a BJP leader in Rayagada and a SUCI activist in Malkangiri. Indeed, the militants have been intensifying their activities in the border areas of the two states. The Orissa police are not well equipped and trained to tackle the outlaws in hills and jungles. The difficult terrain, abysmal poverty, negligible economic progress and peoples' sentiment has been providing substantial impetus to the PWG. Since the PWG operates in Andhra and takes shelter in Orissa, the government considers it unwise to take any hasty step and add fuel to fire. Incidentally, at the initiative of the MHA, a meeting of AP, MP, Orissa and Maharashtra officials was held in Hyderabad in 1999 to chalk out a joint strategy. The Union Home Minister, LK Advani, was present. Orissa under the then chief minister JB Patnaik avoided the meeting.
It needs no reiteration that extremist activities in the eastern states have been increasing menacingly. Ironically, the state's contention that development plans and economic progress and their able enforcement will negate the threat is far from sound. Evidently, the activities of the extremists since January have unmistakably proved that the states' contention is wrong. In fact, the internal unrest has been gradually catching the eye of militant outfits in foreign countries. Nepal is a hotbed of activities of aggressive Maoist rebels. In all, 75 districts of the Himalayan kingdom and six districts of central west Nepal are virtually under the control of the rebels, who have been waging a protracted armed struggle against the monarchy.
Already 1,600 persons had been killed. In two separate incidents insurgents killed 35 cops and wounded 27. The PWG of AP have come closer to the CPN. Two years ago, they secretly formed an Indo-Nepal border committee for smuggling arms and ammunition to extremists operating in India, and in turn the PWG agreed to train insurgents of Nepal. Again both planned to build a corridor from Nepal to Telengana through jungles to facilitate pouring of arms, ammunition and explosives.
The ISI is actively assisting the CPN in such a murky pursuit. The CPN was assured active support by the Maoists active in Belgium, Brazil, Mexico, Philippines during an international seminar held in May in Brussels. The anxious US government deputed the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs to Delhi and Kathmandu to assess the situation. From Jehanabad, the PWG has issued a fresh guide line to its cadres. Broadly, it confirmed its policy of raids on police stations to procure arms, demands for resignation of panchayat functionaries and indiscriminate killing and burning of buses, trains and other public property.
All this is proof of the growth of the extremists. It is apparent that police action will not be able to check its rapid growth in rural areas. Indecision and political considerations often create hurdles in curbing the violence. Political will, a coordinated effort by the affected states and concerted action are essential. At the same time, states must initiate pragmatic development.