Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The 'Andhra Way' Of Countering the Naxal Revolution

This article appeared on countercurrents in the month of April posting it
here for the archives

The 'Andhra Way' Of Countering
The Naxalite Revolution

By Subhash Gatade

10 April, 2006

The Prime Minister is going to address a meeting of states affected with Naxalite 'menace' on 13 th April. Media is also agog with news of 'Centre Getting Tough Action Plan to Curb Naxalism'. An inkling of the way the powers that be look at the situation could be had from a recent meeting held in Delhi.

The recent interaction of senior police officers belonging to states suffereing from the naxalite 'menace' with the top echleons of the internal security establishment proved to be a rehash of the same old mindset which pervades the custodians of law and order. Looking at the quantum jump in the activities of the militant formations and the talk of 'red corridor' gaining currency, one was expecting a refreshingly novel approach, but it proved to be disappointing. To top it all, the police officials from West Bengal, Orissa, Chhatisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand etc were advised to follow the 'Andhra Way' supposedly to the curb the 'menace'. (Naxaliyon se Nipatane Mein Andhra ka Tarika Apnaye, Jansatta, 27 th March 2006)

Ofcourse it was not for the first time that there was singing of eulogies about the Andhra model. The meeting of home ministers of the concerned states held under the aegis of the present home minister last year also saw the projection of the southern state in taking up steps to achieve zero tolerance. It is a different matter that the same home minister on the floor of the house had rather conceded the limits of this approach when he admitted that despite best efforts it 'was not able to bring down the level of naxalite activities as successfully as it had tackled terrorism' ( The Hindu, 30 Nov 2005). What is so significant about the way in which A.P. has taken up steps to curb the activities ?

A glimpse of way in which state looks at the problem can be had from a few month old petition duly signed by many a eminent intellectuals and activists ( addressed to the President of India which makes chilling reading.

Giving details of some happenings in the state it had requested the President to intervene informing him about the 'cruel and inhuman anti insurgency strategy being adopted by the state government.'

According to the petition the state police department has engaged a criminal mafia gang called 'Black Cobra'. This gang has been issuing 'death lists' in media and brutally hacking those on the lists.'

And this gang has already killed two intellectuals - Mr. Kanakachari, a teacher by profession, human rights activist and co-convener of Telangana Jana Sabha and, Mr. M. Prasad, a bank employee and District leader of Kula Nirmoolana Poraata Samithi, an organization fighting against caste system - who were brutally hacked to death within a span of two weeks.

The petition informs the President that when a delegation of intellectuals and journalists complained to Lok-Ayukta (an ombudsman-like authority to enforce ethics and accountability in public office), that the state Home Minister and Director General of Police have failed to discharge their duties with respect to the 'Cobra Killings', the Cobra gang had started calling up those who were part of that delegation.

This is ample proof that the police are hand-in-glove with this criminal gang. And the petition rightly raises the question " rearing 'vigilante' criminal groups and using them to bump off detractors is a strategy used by cruel dictators. It is sad that such inhuman 'strategies' are being used in one of the most revered democracies in the world."

Close on the heels of the killings had also come the news of the attack on the house of Prof S Seshaiah, Head of the Department of Law in Sri Krishnadevaraya University in Anantpur, who happens to be general secretary of APCLC.

It has been reported that five unidentified persons attacked the house of Prof Seshaiah on 23 November at 10.30 p.m. and also tried to break open the door of the house. The next day an unknown outfit 'Rayalseema Tigers' claimed responsibility of the attack and in a letter found outside his house it demanded that Prof Seshaiah resign from the APCLC or get ready to face the consequences.

May it be case of 'Black Cobra' or for that matter the 'Rayalseema Tigers' one is witness to the sudden emergence of many such outfits during last few months only, especially after the breaking down of talks between the Naxals and the government, who are engaged in targetting people sympathetic to the movement. Their modus operandi is similar, they release list of people affiliated to different civil and democratic rights organisation and ask them to leave the organisation or face consequences.

It would be naive to state that without the goverment's official patronage all these things can happen. It cannot be denied this killing spree by these secret groups has definitely dampned the people's spirits at least for now. People are asking if it can happen to a Professor who has been a backbone of the civil liberty movement for the last twenty years and who a year ago was one of the mediators in facilitating the aborted talks between the Naxals and the Government of Andhra Pradesh then it can happen to anyone.

Definitely the anger of the state machinery vis-a-vis the APCLC is easy to comprehend. It is an open secret that the police engages in encounters at will of innocent persons supposedly to curb the 'menace' of Naxalism. And while the police frequently release the statistics on naxalite violence, they avoid mentioning the victims of their own violence. The Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), the prime human rights body has been keeping track of the police killings and two year back it had listed more than 4,000 deaths, 2,000 of them in the last eight years alone.

The aborted session of the Parliament also saw the tabling of a document detailing the Centre's policy on the naxalite problem. ( 13 th March) by the Home Minister. The parliament was also informed that the said policy has been formulated looking at the foremost demands of the Chief Ministers of the affecteted different states.

Can it be then said that the paying lip sympathy to the concerns of the deprived and the dispriviledged the powers that be have finally zeroed in on the Andhra model in its national roadmap to curb naxalism. Is not it time that they are told that it is just a rechristening of the nearly fourty year old track which would lead them to further blind alleys.

Definitely it is hight time one heeds to the advice rendered by the legendary civil rights activist K.G. Kannabiran, President of People's Union For Civil Liberties to the then Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu after there was an attempt on his life. In the letter Kannabiran had plainly stated : "Unless social deprivation is attended to on a war footing, the disaffection engendered by it may continue to fester fuelling never ending spirals of violence".

One does not know whether all those people who have been singing euologies to the Andhra model in curbing the 'menace' have ever bothered to look for themselves how ferocious it looks at the ground level. One does not know whether they comprehend that the mechanisms to be put in place would just be another name for instituting death squad regime under the canopy of democracy.


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