Daily Editorial Analysis for 7th December 2019

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Seeking truth and reconciliation in Chhattisgarh

Paper: GS-III & GS-IV

Topic: Role of External State and Non-state Actors in creating challenges to Internal Security, Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency, and Accountability

Prelims: Extremism, Extra-judicial killings, Maoist.

Mains: Important aspect of governance impact on the society, Factors Responsible for Spread of Extremism, Steps that State can take to reduce the Spread of Extremism due to Underdevelopment. Ethical issues associated with fake encounters.

In News: A ‘final hearing’ of the Salwa Judum case began in December 2018, but one year on, there have been no dates for hearing.

Naxalite–Maoist insurgency In India

• Naxalism originated as a peasant rebellion from Naxalbari in West Bengal. The terms Naxalism and Maoism interchangeably for the same Left Wing.
• The Naxalite–Maoist insurgency is an ongoing conflict between Maoist groups known as Naxalites or Naxals, and the Indian government supported by right-wing paramilitaries.
• The conflict in its present form began after the 2004 formation of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) (CPI-Maoists), a rebel group composed of the People’s War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC).
• In January 2005, talks between the Andhra Pradesh state government and the CPI-Maoists broke down and the rebels accused authorities of not addressing their demands for a written truce, release of prisoners and redistribution of land.
• The ongoing conflict had taken place over a vast territory (around half of India’s 29 states) with hundreds of people being killed annually in clashes between the CPI-Maoists and the government every year since 2005. Of late, it has mostly been confined to Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra.
• The armed wing of the Naxalite–Maoists is called the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) and is estimated to have between 6,500 and 9,500 cadres, mostly armed with small arms.
• According to a study of the newspaper The Times of India, 58% of people surveyed in the state of Andhra Pradesh have a positive perception of the guerrilla, and only 19% against it.
• The Naxalites have frequently targeted tribal, police and government workers in what they say is a fight for improved land rights and more jobs for neglected agricultural laborers and the poor.
• The Naxalites claim that they are following a strategy of rural rebellion similar to a protracted people’s war against the government.
• In July 2011, the number of Naxal-affected areas was reduced to 83 districts across nine states. In December 2011, the national government reported that the number of conflict-related deaths and injuries nationwide had gone down by nearly 50% from 2010 levels.
• The Naxalite–Maoist insurgency again gained international media attention after the 2013 Naxal attack in Darbha valley resulted in the deaths of around 24 Indian National Congress leaders, including the former state minister Mahendra Karma and the Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel.

Areas affected most

• Changes in areas of operation are resorted to from time to time by the Left Wing Extremists as part of their tactics. These are mostly undertaken to deflect pressure on armed cadres in their core areas. Over the past few years, there has been some effort by the CPI (Maoist) to expand their activities to the Kerala-Karnataka-Tamil Nadu tri-junction and Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh tri-junction with limited success.
• Districts which have been particularly affected are Wayanad, Palakkad and Malappuram, all in Kerala on the Kerala-Karnataka-Tamil Nadu tri-junction and Balaghat, Mandala in Madhya Pradesh, Gondia in Maharashtra and Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh on the Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh tri-junction.

Issues associated with Government in tackling the insurgent group

• Human Rights violation: The Indian government claims it is slowly but surely winning the war against Maoist guerillas in India’s resource-rich forested regions, and has consistently dismissed widespread accusations of human rights violations as propaganda by Maoists or their supporters. It has also acted to pre-empt future accusations by jailing human rights activists and lawyers working in these areas.
• Examples are many: Seven-and-a-half years after 17 unarmed villagers, including six minors, were killed by security forces at Sarkeguda village in Chhattisgarh, a commission headed by Justice V.K. Agarwal, a retired judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, has established that the CRPF and police version of events was false, the official police inquiry into the deaths was manipulated, and that 15 of the villagers were killed at close quarters while fleeing in a ‘totally disproportionate and unwarranted use of force.
• Villagers’ testimony: The support from the village as they did not have trust in the government. That they did not file an FIR with the police, in fact, works against the state, showing their complete and justified lack of faith in the system.
• False encounters: In most cases festivals in villages are organized at night, and some people with ‘criminal antecedents’ were present. This does not mean that all are criminals. Not surprisingly, there have been several more cases of fake encounters even after the Congress took power, the most recent being of two villagers in the Munga jungle on November 5.
• Immunity to security forces: The Supreme Court’s 2011 ban on the use of surrendered Naxalites in frontline counter-insurgency. It is silent, however, on the issues raised by the report the callous killing of 17 innocent villagers under its watch. Action against security personnel in Sarkeguda must be the start, but must not be allowed to become the end.

Government Initiative

• To control Naxal Activities: The security forces have achieved considerable success in operations against Left Wing Extremists which is reflected in a significant improvement in the situation both in terms of reduction of violence and its geographical spread. The number of violent incidents has come down to 908 in 2017 from a high of 2258 in 2009. The geographical spread of violence has also shrunk considerably.
• Security Related Expenditure Scheme: 90 districts in 11 states are currently covered by the Security Related

Expenditure Scheme.

• Multipronged Approach: The Government has a holistic approach towards combating LWE wherein it supplements the efforts of the State Governments over a wide range of measures.
• A National Policy and Action Plan: has been put in place that envisages a multi-pronged strategy involving security-related measures, developmental interventions and ensuring rights & entitlements of local communities etc.

Way Forward

• As a recent report by a government-appointed inquiry commission shows, the human right violation accusations are credible and need to be addressed.
• As per the Sarkengudu Report, the State government needs to institute a panel dealing with all extra-judicial killings.
• Development initiatives include focused schemes for development of roads, installation of mobile towers, skill development, improving network of banks and post offices, health and education facilities, particularly in the most affected districts. These measures have contributed towards weaning away the people from Maoist influence and increased support for the Government.
• Only better training, better gadgets and better intelligence for the forces, is the key to encounter the internal insurgency.

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