Saturday, April 10, 2010

Naxalistan rising

Taken lightly and as an issue emanating from and restricted to the forests and hills where those underprivileged adivasis (tribals) have lived for generations, the Naxalite problem in India has assumed menacing proportions. In my view, if India is facing one existential problem today, it is this. Unfortunately, those in power simply choose to ignore, dilly-dally and play-safe. They have done so for more than 3 decades, and the cancer is now in full bloom for rest of the world to see, and comment on.

In normal times, I would not have imagined writing a title like the one I have, for this post. I love my nation, and I love its democratic traditions. But like a nightmare from the Marxist past (19th century), Naxalism has emerged on the horizon as the ultimate Black Swan - a phenomenon of momentous proportions for which no one seems ready. And Black Swans enjoy a dangerous reputation - Nassim Taleb proved it beyond doubt that they can upset the best of calculations, and the most robust-looking of systems. In short, it's really bad news for India. It'll be worse because this is a 'known' Black Swan.

(One request : please do read this blogpost fully before reaching any conclusion about my views. Since it's a complex issue, it's easy to get misunderstood, hence the request!)

As I analyse the Naxal menace from a Project Management perspective (thinking I am the supreme decision maker in India, and I am mandated with stamping out this Naxalite menace), I realise it's quite a complex situation. It's cancerous, actually. Rooting out the secondary lesions will be of little use, as long as the parent tumour stays healthy and keeps up its prolific activity. And when I think of attacking the parent tumour, it seems my hands are tied with convention - democratic traditions - that pull me back, slow me down, and ultimately, may prove my undoing.

The potential ramifications for India are outlined in this article. It's not pleasant reading, so be prepared!

Let's break the huge problem into small pieces, and try to analyse it.

What do the Naxalites want?
An overthrow of the parliamentary democracy system in India. They want a (Mao style) Communist ruling order (for at least the part of modern day India which they control). Note that they do not want money, or government jobs, or reservations, or Coca Cola, or Malls, or films. They want a new nation as per their rules.

How did they come into being? What started it all?
Societal injustice led to the first armed uprising in some small village in West Bengal (called Naxalbari) several decades ago. They wanted instant justice through violence (guns), as they lost faith in democratic institutions like the Parliament (legislatures), the Courts and the Police/Media/Administration. They claim these institutions only serve the purpose of creating an illusion of progress for the common man, nothing more.

Are they mercenaries or terrorists?
Frighteningly, they are none. They are, so far, ideologically strong forces who are chasing an overriding goal. Overthrow of democracy in India. This makes them difficult to beat. You can buy out a mercenary, and black-label a terrorist, but it's very difficult with ideologues. History has proven that you may kill the leaders of ideologically driven movements, but that only serves to strengthen the ideology even further. Want examples? Recall Che Guevara (Cuba, Bolivia..)


What's the Indian government doing?
Practically, as of now, nothing seriously consequential. They are training and preparing the para-military, intelligence and police forces for head-on collisions with the Naxalites, but there are little signs of deep success that can be celebrated. And for every success, there is a crushing defeat that follows almost immediately. Despite interesting and partially successful government interventions like the Salwa Judum, there are bigger threats that Naxalites keep posing.

Who's responsible for fighting these Naxalites?
Both the Centre as well as the States are responsible. And that's a big problem. Coordination issues bog everything down, at times. I must add that there are many patriotic and nationalistic politicians (and of course police officers) who truly want to solve this problem. Some of them have gotten assassinated, some face life-threats. I was surprised to see the instant (negative though muted) reaction of the Chief of Indian Air Force in the media the next day after the Home Minister suggested we may use Air Force to counter the Naxals. He suggested things ("..they are Indian citizens after all..", "..we are geared for total destruction not surgical strikes inside forests.." etc.) that may have inadvertently encouraged the Naxals!

Is our democracy slowing us down?
It's a fact that the sympathisers of Naxalism use the very instruments of democracy to subvert it!! They will file cases against police officers in courts of law, alleging human rights violations. And in many cases, succeed in slowing down the operations, and of course, in demoralising the forces.

What are the actual problems with stamping out Naxalism?
Well, there are many. To summarise -
  1. They are fighting a battle of ideology
  2. Democracy seriously cripples large-scale internal security operations
  3. Indian military's involvement seems remote
  4. Porous local politics will incessantly aid the cause of Naxalites
  5. Democratic institutions (media, judiciary..) will harm the cause of long-term democracy itself!
  6. Sheer scale of Naxalism's spread in India (200+ affected districts so far)
  7. Genuine problems of citizenry going un-addressed for decades
Are there historical precedents of this problem?
Very interestingly, the Naxal problem - in my personal opinion - in India resembles the 16th century story of the great Maratha king - Shivaji Maharaj. The big difference, though, lies in the fact that while Shivaji's battle was noble - he fought the foreign invaders (Mughals and Nizams) who were well-settled in India (both North and South) to establish a "Swarajya" based on clear-cut honest rules, the Naxals have subverted such a system already existing (the Indian democracy). Shivaji Maharaj had NO choice but to wage a war against the Mughals and the Nizams. The Naxals have a choice. They can participate in the Indian democratic system, which they choose not to. There's another interesting side to this story. Both are using strong guerilla tactics in fighting their enemies. This is what made Shivaji invincible in most cases. This is precisely what's slowing the Indian state's total rooting out of the Naxal menace. Just like Shivaji would have been destroyed in a face-to-face battle with the Mughals, the Naxalites will be eradicated in an open battle with Indian forces. They have not fought a single battle that's pre-declared. In summary, while Shivaji was a positive and successful force for India's resurgence, the Naxals represent the opposite.

Are the Naxalite forces really very strong? Very large?
The Indian state is TOO strong and TOO large for the Naxalites to overrun. It will be foolish to even being assuming that one day in the near future they will declare independence (the very thought!!). Our forces can crush them anytime they want to - but the constraints of a guerilla warfare, sympathy for them as they are our own citizens after all, and the democratic slowness of the system is holding the Indian state back.

Is India's internal stability important for the rest of the world?
Absolutely! If India falters, and Naxalism shaves off a few percentage points from our national GDP over the next few years, the world economy will suffer. We must not overlook the fact that Europe and the US are looking towards China and India as the lead anchors in their roles as rejuvenators of the sinking world economy.

What's a good scenario mapping?
There are three possible scenarios we are headed for.

Scenario 1. The central government acts hard and fast, starting 2010. Army is called in to support (not just train) the paramilitary forces. The Naxals strike back with full force, but as the army is involved, they gradually start losing out strategic battles. Despite loud shrieks from the pseudo-human rights activists and several brainless (and unpatriotic) media channels, the government simply presses ahead with cleaning the cancer. The Indian military uses lessons learnt by Sri Lankan forces in their war against the LTTE, to the maximum. In all this, Naxalites' key leaders are killed, arrested or go underground. By 2015, they are a pale shadow of their earlier self. India returns to business as usual. The government brings in massive social rebuilding programs, and spends billions on actual grassroot projects. The government gets sensitised, and ensures Naxalism turns into just a bad dream that got over.

Scenario 2. The Central government tries to rally everyone around the single point agenda of building a two-point solution to the Naxal issue. (a) The Hard solution - para-military action, and (b) the Soft solution - large scale economic packages for tribals and poor in the Naxalite affected districts (200+ in number at present). The media channels keep shrieking about possible human rights violations, and Naxalite sympathisers (many of India's unpatriotic pseudo-intellectuals) keep waxing eloquently on prominent channels. As the intellectuals slog it out in the airconditioned media studios, and then head out to party, the Naxalites keep killing security forces without a hint of compunction! On ground, regular battles (big and small) keep getting fought between the forces, and Naxalites. Nothing major seems to happen, other than status quo. But in reality, the Naxalites strengthen their hold on the interior regions strongly. With every passing day, they spread their cancer in an incurable format. The mission is clear - declaring independence from the Republic of India, and creation of an independent state of Naxalistan. In October 2018, they declare the official launch of the ragtag state of Naxalistan. Many media channels are invited to cover the 'glorious' event. The world is stunned, so is the rest of India. Under strong international pressure (mainly from the now totally bankrupt USA and a strong China), the Republic of India decides not to fight back - the human cost would be too much. After all, the Naxalites are now spread intelligently in more than 500 million of India's ordinary population across 300 districts! Two states (widely different from each other) start uneasily co-existing in the Indian sub-continent.

Scenario 3. Nothing substantial happens till 2018. Central and State governments keep passing the buck. Top political leaders of ruling parties in Delhi avoid taking the bold decisions which are desperately needed (they fear their personal safety, and losing major political ground to opportunisitic opposition parties). Many state level leaders strike individually profitable deals with Naxalites helping them win local elections, and promising only symbolic paramilitary action in return. The virus spreads dangerously till the Central government realises India is losing out on large chunks of foreign investment due to consistent bad press internationally. Suddenly, in October 2018, the Naxalites declare an independent state "Naxalistan" comprising areas from more than 300 Indian districts, and several nations in the world are approached to grant it recognition. India stands divided - The democratic India, and the Naxalistan. Fortunately, Delhi is still controlled by a patriotic government, not willing to see the dreams of founder-fathers tattered to pieces. The Indian military is still apolitical and willing to obey the civilian establishment's orders. Democratic Republic of India calls in the Army finally. It's war. Large scale massacre of Naxalites (and citizens) takes place over the next decade. Many leading politicians lose their lives in the battery of assassinations that Naxalites carry out throughout the country in retaliation. It's April 2025 when the Indian Army finally declares victory over Naxalistan. Remember Sri Lanka's war against LTTE? It took several decades in that small island. In India, it's a problem at least 10 times bigger in magnitude, to put it crudely. By then, deep damage to the fabric of the sub-continent has already happened. India's image as the haven of democratic tradition and peace is dented severely.


I have speculated on the future, based on the past and present. As a nationalistic Indian, I pray to God that none of these scenarios turns out to be true, and that the Government(s) and Naxalites can sit across the table, talk with a cool head, and arrive at a mutually agreeable solution. I hope that our governments can offer them peace, resources and progress, and that the Naxalites (especially their leaders) accept those. I hope and pray that more lives are not lost. I pray that in this land of Gandhi, Bose and Patel, we maintain what we got with so much struggle - an undiluted sovereign republic of India. I pray.
~

all images, maps etc. are only indicative in nature, and are taken from the internet sources. All future dates mentioned are the author's personal imagination using present facts.

11 comments:

Pratik Agrawal said...

Great article sir, you gave me a new perspective to see this problem. I too believe that war is not the ultimate solution of this problem. We have to talk with them we should accomplish the faith of the Tribals and have to show them that the government is for them not against them. I have also written an article on this situation:
www.ideaofnewindia.blogspot.com

Jagrat4life said...

Insightful article Sir... But in opinion it all boil down to the single reason... absence of the basic facilities with those folks in the hinterlands of India. Now they have aligned with the cross countries terrorist :( , equipped with the artillery, money, power and thereby increasing their reach enabling such bloody butchery of CRPF n local police!!!
Indian central Govt. should take the matter in their hands n give the green signal 2 army 2 clean d menace and simultaneously spend resources 2 provide them facilities what they deserve ... healthy water, education, employment but also keep in mind that it don't disturb d delicate indigenous culture of d respective region.
This is going to be a tough decision to fire bullets on our own brothers n sisters but d call need 2 b made now else it would soon engulf d larger part of our beloved country .....

Regards
Jagrat

ravi jain said...

Dear Sir,
There are some local politician like Shibu Soren, who are supporting these nuxalites which is one of the main reason of rising Naxalistan in India.
F.Y.I. Your this blog post is also published by Patrika Newspaper today..........

Ravi Jain
Fall 08

shravan gupta said...

Respected sir
Nice elaboration of the article sir. I liked the article. you covered everything with full details. I learnt a way to divide the complex things into bits and pieces to tackle it effectively.
I think govt needs to take firm actions against them. This problem is now very serious. Looking to the recent happenings after the masscre, it doesnot seems that any concrete steps would have been taken.
I am in the opinion of taking strong military action against them, side by side govt also spend money on rular development. Because they are hard core ideologist thier is little hope that they will ever agreed to halt its mission before reaching its goal(to uproot indian democracy). Hence thier is no point sitting still and waiting for the right time. As the passes this problem will became more intense.
If govt doesnot tkes though decsions now this will encourage them to undertake even bloodier steps.
This issue is hot now and public have anger against them. Even state politician will find it hard to resist such actions against them. So govt must devise fully equiped paramilitary into the effected regions to destroy them completely. By doing so their is little hope that they might agreed to negotiate the issue wth govt.
I see no other obvious ways to best tackle this problem ( leaving apart the chances of happening miracles). Hope our govt would able to convinced him to resolve the issue by negotiation)

regards
Sharavan

shravan gupta said...

Respected sir
Nice elaboration of the article sir. I liked the article. you covered everything with full details. I learnt a way to divide the complex things into bits and pieces to tackle it effectively.
I think govt needs to take firm actions against them. This problem is now very serious. Looking to the recent happenings after the masscre, it doesnot seems that any concrete steps would have been taken.
I am in the opinion of taking strong military action against them, side by side govt also spend money on rular development. Because they are hard core ideologist thier is little hope that they will ever agreed to halt its mission before reaching its goal(to uproot indian democracy). Hence thier is no point sitting still and waiting for the right time. As the passes this problem will became more intense.
If govt doesnot tkes though decsions now this will encourage them to undertake even bloodier steps.
This issue is hot now and public have anger against them. Even state politician will find it hard to resist such actions against them. So govt must devise fully equiped paramilitary into the effected regions to destroy them completely. By doing so their is little hope that they might agreed to negotiate the issue wth govt.
I see no other obvious ways to best tackle this problem ( leaving apart the chances of happening miracles). Hope our govt would able to convinced him to resolve the issue by negotiation)

regards
Sharavan

shravan gupta said...

Respected sir
Nice elaboration of the article sir. I liked the article. you covered everything with full details. I learnt a way to divide the complex things into bits and pieces to tackle it effectively.
I think govt needs to take firm actions against them. This problem is now very serious. Looking to the recent happenings after the masscre, it doesnot seems that any concrete steps would have been taken.
I am in the opinion of taking strong military action against them, side by side govt also spend money on rular development. Because they are hard core ideologist thier is little hope that they will ever agreed to halt its mission before reaching its goal(to uproot indian democracy). Hence thier is no point sitting still and waiting for the right time. As the passes this problem will became more intense.
If govt doesnot tkes though decsions now this will encourage them to undertake even bloodier steps.
This issue is hot now and public have anger against them. Even state politician will find it hard to resist such actions against them. So govt must devise fully equiped paramilitary into the effected regions to destroy them completely. By doing so their is little hope that they might agreed to negotiate the issue wth govt.
I see no other obvious ways to best tackle this problem ( leaving apart the chances of happening miracles). Hope our govt would able to convinced him to resolve the issue by negotiation)

regards
Sharavan

Surendra said...

Thank you sir for writing such a insightful blog. The style of writing (Like an interview) is very good. I came to know almost all the aspect related to "Naxalism". It is one of the danagerous problems our country is facing at present time.
I think all individal must take initiative to eliminate this problem. Without the help of Indian people it will be very difficult to stop "Naxalism".
Regard,
Proton Surendra Pratap Mourya

pankaj gangwani said...

Dear Sir,

great post (wonderful imagination) but one thing hits me that: why these people(naxlites) want progress with wrong means? why they dont like peace?
I hope their exists an answer for this.

hope is a good thing and I hope we(our nation)will come out clean from this big problem called naxalites.........


Regards
Pankaj Gangwani

raghu said...

Dear sir,
The blog about naxal issue is really insight full, I always have respect about ur view in all big issues and I too have the same opinion. But i slightly disagree ur view about LTTE. Tough I try to avoid this topic which is controversial in nature, fortunately or unfortunately I belong to the same community and I like to give my personal opinion about the problem. The first thing I like to say is “LTTE are not the reason for the problem they are the outcome of the problem”. U mentioned in this blog shivaji used the same way as like naxal but he fight for the freedom ,if he is right then what Prabaharan did also should come in the same criteria, what I think. I like to give some data regarding this issue. In 1976 srilankan government made an amendment in their constitution that srilankan tamil people who shares one third of the total population where declared second citizen in their own country. And on the same year 3000 tamil people where killed in a single day by srilankan military who protest against this amendment and frequently many youth and tamil leaders were abducted and killed by the government. only after all this inhuman, brutal, unacceptable animal behavioral acts they started their fight against government. Prabaharan is one of 5 people who got trained in India to fight against srilankan army during Mrs Indra gandi ruling. Im not advocating what they did was right, I know very well that in democratic world 51=100 and 49=00,but we should respect the feelings of those minority also!
So I please u(my mentor) not to use their name or this struggle in negative sense. Even Netaji subhash Chandra bose is also an declared criminal in india.
Thanking you,
proton Raghu D

Sandeep Manudhane said...

Thanks everyone for sharing your views. The blog is enriched by this.

Raghu - thanks for sharing your feelings. I respect them. I request you to please re-read the lines mentioning LTTE. I have mentioned that in a future scenario "there were certain lessons learnt by Sri Lankan military in its fight against the LTTE - and the Indian military used them in its fight against Naxalites." There was no comment on the "rightness" or "wrongness" of LTTE.

Injustice is always bad. It is not part of the human agenda ever.

Ritesh Sharma said...

Greeting!!

After reading this article , I feel that this article should be posted to Home minister and Media people.

I strongly feel in the democracy and I believe in the commitment of Home minister that the problem of Naxalism would be finish up to 2015.

Your comment deals with deeper and all over side of problem.
Its really remarkable .