Naxal War Zone in Chhattishgarh

Rajat Kumar Kujur

Wasting no time after the ban was imposed in Andhra Pradesh, Naxals launched an attack in Chhattishgarh early this month by triggering a landmine, which left at least 23 security personnel dead. This blast which took place near Padeda village in Dantewada district was powerful enough to awake the State government from deep slumber and complacency. A ban on the Communist Party of India –Maoist (CPI-Maoist), the perpetrator, and its front organizations followed after an emergency meeting of the Cabinet in the State capital Raipur.

Since January 2004 the Naxalites have triggered more than 220 landmine blasts and as many as 104 landmines were recovered and defused. Ironically, the recent Padeda incident raises serious concern over the state’s preparedness and strength against the power of Naxals (also known as Maoist extremists), as the policemen were on an anti-landmine vehicle which was torn into pieces by the impact of the blast. The non-tarred roads of the state are another handicap coming in the way of police, making them more vulnerable to landmine and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks.

Arguably, the Naxal violence has sharply increased in the state of Chhattishgarh after the formation of Communist Party of India (Maoist). The violence has been characterized by Jan Adalats, targeted attacks on police, police informers, ruling political class and tribal who are engaged in anti Naxalite movement in Bastar region particularly in Salva Zudoom (Peace initiative). The Naxals are known to be active in 9 districts out of 16 districts in Chhattishgarh and Bastar region––comprising Dantewada, Kanker and Bastar and the adjoining Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. In fact, the Naxals have named the area as ’Abuz Marh’ (the unknown hill’), made Bastar there home and are controlling their activities from their base in the nearly impregnable Dandakaranya forest. The Naxal leadership claims that the entire Bastar region is a ‘liberated zone’, where the rebels are in a dominant position.

The so called movement by the Naxals in the state has become a serious problem with regard to the development of the state. As the Naxals have established their control over the areas, which are rich in mines and minerals, development works have become standstill in Dantewada, Kanker, Bastar, Kawardha, Balrampur, Sarguja and other Naxal-infested districts of the state. The problem is not only affecting economic activities in the state but also forcing it to adopt an imbalanced model of growth because of the presence of Naxalites in a majority of the mineral-rich pockets of Chhattishgarh.

Tackling the rising Naxal violence has become a formidable challenge for the state administration in all Naxal-affected districts. As of now they have equipped themselves with sophisticated Kalashnikov rifles, wireless sets and remote control devices. In the face of eternally ill equipped state security force, the Naxals have established people's governance and virtually have their own administration in areas which they call 'liberated zone'. They issue vehicle passes and charge taxes from people for using the roads or staying or doing businesses.

In view of the excessive Naxal violence the government really needs to rethink its strategy over the whole issue. The Raman Singh government has so far formed 139 village defense committees, to take along the people of the state in dealing with Naxals. The state government has also launched a counter revolutionary movement in the name of Jan Jagran Abhiyan to spread awareness among people about the ill effects of Naxal Movement in the state. The unprecedented tribal support for Salva Zudoom, has really put the extremists on the back foot. On the other hand, the state sponsored Jan Jagran Abhiyan is being regarded as instrumental for restoring the confidence among people. The government must not allow these developments to go in vain rather it should use them to push forward the agenda of bringing an end to decade old left-wing extremism.

The recent Padeda incident even shook the Union Home Ministry, only to carry a comprehensive review of the situations in Chhattishgarh. The state cabinet already recommended for a ban on Naxal activities in the state, trying to bring an ordinance to curb any organization or group of individuals involved in illegal activities or terrorist activities in the state.

With all these measures, what the government must do is to address issues which facilitated the Naxal growth in the state. Rampant corruption among the various levels of political and administrative leaderships has been considered as the entry ground for Naxals. In a true Robbinhood style, the Naxals then go around ‘punishing’ the corrupt and fighting the state, besides raising issues such as tribal rights, land reforms, better standard of living. Government’s tough measures will give results only if they come along with an equitable package of development.

Author Note
Rajat Kumar Kujur, Research Associate, Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, New Delhi