Author : Manoj Joshi

Originally Published 2017-04-29 09:10:05 Published on Apr 29, 2017
Alt centre wrong diagnosis?

When you mis-categorise a phenomenon or mislabel an event, you are liable to err in dealing with it. This can have serious consequences, just as faulty diagnosis leads to a worsening of a disease.

And so it is with the Maoist insurgency in central India.In the minds of the Modi government, the Maoists appear to be nothing but terrorists who are wont to make “cowardly attacks“ on our security forces who were, in this most recent instance, killed in a “cold blooded manner“. A senior minister weighed in against human rights activists for their silence on the killings.

Now, from all accounts, the CRPF party was expertly ambushed by a group of Maoists and the 25 personnel killed presumably died fighting, gun in hand. This was an unfortunate development, tragic, even disastrous. But it can hardly be termed either cold-blooded or cowardly . As for human rights, the traditional use of the term relates to atrocities against non-combatants, including disarmed security personnel.

Perhaps the government had hoped that through its rhetorical arrows, howsoever misdirected, it would quell the hard questions about its own conduct. Why had it failed to appoint a person to head the CRPF for the past two months (one has now been appointed on Wednesday)? Why are poorly trained and led CRPF personnel being asked to take up such a dangerous counterinsurgency duty? Mao Zedong once said that you should respect your enemy tactically , even while despising him strategically . So, even as we reject the Maoist ideology and seek to destroy it tooth and nail, we should have a healthy regard for Maoist guerrillas' abilities as fighters. Only if we do so will we be able to defeat them.

The Maoist challenge is not a new one. Police have been combating them in various ways and locales since the mid-1960s. It has soundly defeated them in Bengal and the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh and there is need to learn from those experiences in taking on the latest version of Maoists in central India's jungles.

The key to the defeat was a combination of political action and intelligence led military operations. Clearly , in the case of Chhattisgarh what we are witnessing is an incoherent application of military force, sans any intelligence.This was evident in the terrible 2010 ambush in Dantewada when CRPF lost 76 jawans, and a year later when 26 died in Narayanpur. Then, as now, CRPF had zero intelligence about large Maoist forces in its vicinity .

Such intelligence can be obtained through technical means ­ UAVs, foliage penetrating radars and so on. But it is best gathered through the patient use of human sources.

The forces you employ must be highly skilled in jungle warfare as the Greyhounds of Andhra are, or the army in the northeast. But more than that you need effective political messaging through which you challenge the Maoist narrative that the people are being exploited and their rights violated by the Indian state. This does not mean a speech in New Delhi or a declaration in Raipur, but action on the ground. The people must be made to feel that the government cares for them and is doing its best to resolve their problems.

In that sense the Raman Singh government is the biggest failure. He has led the state for nearly 15 years, has done little or nothing to undermine the Maoist challenge and is leaving the issue to be resolved through exclusively military means.

The use of force to resolve a problem is very seductive, but it is also extremely destructive. Now we seem to be seeing this wrong-diagnosis-worsening-thedisease phenomenon in Jammu & Kashmir as well where the government has decided that all dissenters are terrorists who must be dealt with as such. As a result, the political health of the state has taken a turn for the worse.

This commentary was published in The Times of India.

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Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...

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