Originally Published 2005-03-01 08:52:31 Published on Mar 01, 2005
On December 5, 2003, following the November 17- Bollattu encounter, this author wrote in this newspaper (Deccan Herald), Procrastination on the part of the Karnataka Government in dealing with the Naxalite menace will only help the latter to expand and grow in the state.
Naxalism in Karnataka: Swift remedy needed
On December 5, 2003, following the November 17- Bollattu encounter, this author wrote in this newspaper (Deccan Herald), "Procrastination on the part of the Karnataka Government in dealing with the Naxalite menace will only help the latter to expand and grow in the state. Quick remedial measures would, therefore, spare a lot of blood shed." Unfortunately, like all the other state governments, Karnataka, too, has been complacent. 

On February 6, 2005, Naxalite leader Saket Rajan alias Prem was killed in an encounter in Chikmagalur district; in retaliation, Naxals from Anantapur in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh (AP), on February 11, attacked the 9th Battalion of Karnataka State Reserve police (KSRP) in Venkammanahalli, Tumkur district, and shot dead a citizen and seven KRSP personnel. It was then that the state suddenly woke up to the Naxal threat. 

The Naxalites did not surface all of a sudden in Karnataka. Initially, they had sought safe havens in places in the state, including in the capital Bangalore. They also operated in some limited pockets but maintained a low profile. For instance, reportedly, three central committee members of the erstwhile People's War Group (PWG) were arrested from a house in Bangalore in December 1999. Furthermore, Naxalite ideologue Vara Vara Rao addressed public meetings in the Chikmaglur area in early 2003 and balladeer Gaddar reportedly addressed a closed-door meeting of intellectuals in Mangalore in August 2004. 

Presently, Tumkur is witnessing a significant degree of Naxalite activity. Beginning here and in Kolar, Bidar, Gulbarga, and Raichur districts in the late-1980s, the Naxals have gradually extended their presence to Bellary Shimoga, Udupi, Chikmagalur and Dakshin Kannada, while Hasan and Kodagu are gradually slipping into the Naxal fold. 

In Pavagada area, Tumkur, and in Raichur, the Naxalites highlighted the government's failure in providing basic amenities (such as drinking water and health care) and implementing development activities (such as laying roads and irrigation facilities), as well as providing employment opportunities, to win the support of the masses. Besides, taking up the Kudermukh National Park issue and exploitation by landlords had helped the Naxalites to expand their activities in the state. 

Thus, as in several other states, Karnataka Government's failure to meet the genuine aspirations of the people has enabled the Naxalites to enter into, and expand their presence in, various districts. 

The trajectory of Naxalite activity is proceeding along a known pattern that the Naxalites had devised and implemented with considerable success in other parts of the country. After establishing their presence in an area, even as they engage the security forces in pitched battles, the Naxalites seek to bring political institutions under their control: through infiltrating them with sympathizers, intimidating opponents into submission or coercing them to resign from their posts. A media report of February 26, 2005 claimed that the Naxalites "now want to gain control over the Belluru Gram Panchayat" (in Tumkur district). Thereafter, the Naxalites would seek to establish their unquestioned hold and sway over the area: run a parallel government, hold 'people's courts' that often administer inhuman and harsh punishment, murder civilians in the name of being 'police informers', and indulge in extortion, as well as strike unprincipled deals with political leaders. 

The activities of the Naxalites in Karnataka cannot be seen in isolation because these are part of the larger, pan-India strategy of the Naxalites to capture political power through an armed insurrection. The Naxalites have no faith in parliamentary politics and consider democratic institutions as a sham. Consistently, they have maintained that they are unflinchingly committed to waging a protracted armed struggle in order to capture political power and herald what they call is a New Democratic Revolution (NDR). Following the merger of the PWG and the Maoist Communist Center of India (MCCI) into the CPI-Maoist, in a statement issued on October 14, 2004, 'Ganapathy' and 'Kishan', the general secretaries respectively of the erstwhile PWG and MCCI said: "The immediate aim and programme of the Maoist party is to carry on and complete the already ongoing and advancing New Democratic Revolution. This revolution will be carried out and completed through protracted people's war with the armed seizure of power remaining as its central and principal task.

Karnataka can, even at this juncture, prevent the sliding of the state into left-wing extremist lawlessness. Most importantly, it is imperative to have in place a consistent policy based on consensus among all political parties, and the absence of narrow political deals with the Naxals. In the face of the assertion by Kishan and Ganapathy, negotiations can not be the means to resolve the Naxalite problem. On the other hand, a purely law and order approach would only temporarily weaken the Naxalites. Hence, the Government--and all its agencies--has to be responsive to the peoples' needs and aspirations, especially in the areas currently under Naxalite influence and those that are susceptible to Naxalite penetration. Simultaneously, the Government should apply the required degree of legitimate force and demonstrate that violent methods to redress grievances are not a solution and shall not be tolerated. 

The author is Research Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

Courtesy: The article was published under the title "Swift Remedy not procrastination needed", in Deccan Herlad, Bangalore, February 27, 2005.

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