Finding A New Haven: Growing Tentacles of Naxalism in India

Nihar Nayak

The growing influence of the newly formed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-M), the Naxal outfit, along the Uttar Pradesh's (UP) eastern borders and the rapidity with which they are expanding their organisation in the State is undoubtedly alarming. Naxals are looking to the State for fresh bases where they can build a formidable organization. The inaccessible hilly terrain and dense forests of the state provide perfect cover for the Naxalites, who use their own maps to move around. Recently, on November 20, the Naxalite had ambushed a police party and shot dead at least twenty policemen near a culvert in Chandauli district of UP. The incident happened when Policemen and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel were proceeding on a combing duty in Naugarh police station area.

The Naxalites are active in the eastern part of the state since 1969. The then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh C B Gupta accepting their presence in different parts of the state, attributed their activities to the irregularities and injustices committed by some village headmen in the distribution of land. Although the government realised it as a socio-economic problem, it treated the issue as a law and order problem by deploying armed constabulary (PAC) squad in Laxmipur district to curb the activities of Naxals. However, his successors neglected the Naxalite issue and followed a policy of non-interference.

The incident of November 20 was first major attack on security forces in India after the merger of two dreaded left wing extremist outfits, the Maoist Communist Center (MCC) and the People’s War Group (PWG). In Uttar Pradesh the Naxlites have influence over Mirzapur, Chandauli and Sonebhadra districts while Gorakhpur, Ghazipur and Ballia are targeted as potential districts to be brought under its influence. At least seven districts of the state are connected to Maoist affected regions of Nepal and another seven with Bihar. In addition, border districts of UP are also emerging as safe haven for Maoists from Nepal. The increasing pressure form the Nepalese army has forced the Nepalese Maoists to sneak into UP, Uttaranchal, West Bengal and Bihar for respite. Early last month, on October 3, the Special Task Force of the Bihar police had busted a crucial erstwhile MCC link with the arrest of nine suspected extremists during three raids. At least two of the rebels were from adjoining districts of UP. In August this year too the Uttaranchal police had arrested five suspected Nepalese Maoist sympathizers in Saufutia forests of Udham Singh Nagar district.

Recent intelligence sources indicated a strong Nepalese Maoist-Naxalite nexus that has emerged in the region as a serious threat to the internal security of India as a whole and in particular to five states— UP, Bihar, Uttaranchal, West Bengal and Sikkim. These states are connected to the Himalayan kingdom along the 1751 km border. It is observed that there has been regular exchange of men and material between the Maoists in Nepal and Naxalite outfits in India.

As the extremists work to consolidate and expand their power, repeatedly declaring their commitment to 'armed struggle' and rejection of India's 'bourgeois democracy', regrettably, no such unified effort is in evidence from affected states. Rather the Center, with the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, is encouraging other Naxalite-affected States to follow the Andhra Pradesh example. Seeing developments in Andhra Pradesh, most of the affected states showed interests either to initiate dialoge or ceasefire. But the ceasefire in neighboring Andhra Pradesh did not influence much to Orissa government on its stand on these outfits. Keeping the option of dialogue open with the Naxalite, if only they come to the negotiating table without preconditions, the Orissa Government plans to launch a developmental offensive against the ultras. While the Chhattisgarh government has decided to bring out a surrender policy for the naxals, the Karnataka Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh has ruled out a cease-fire or cessation of police operations against the Naxalites. The West Bengal government is confused to with whom to initiate peace talks, while Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh governments are remaining mute on the matter.

The irony is that the state response to Naxalism remains incoherent and directionless. The Central Coordination Committee (CCC) of Naxalite affected States headed by the Union Home Ministry has met at least fifteen times since its inception to discuss the problem, but has not been able to evolve any comprehensive strategy to tackle the threat. Although the Union Government has recently presented a proposal for a Unified Command, on the lines of Kashmir and the northeast, some states are of the view that the formation of the Command would lead to interference in the law and order. Now that the CPI-Maoist has indicated its inclination to negotiations with other state governments, provided they give up their repressive measures; it is to be seen what steps these affected state governments will take.

Author Note
Nihar Nayak is a Research Associate in the Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi.