State fighting a losing battle
The Rani Bodli massacre by Naxalites shows the growing wedge between the people and the State
Naxalites of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) have an unambiguous plan to “further strengthen the people’s army”. Various Maoist documents attest to this objective, including the one on turning the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) into People’s Liberation Army (PLA), adopted at the Unity Congress of the Maoists that concluded on February 1. The Maoists envision that, eventually, as the numerical strength of the People’s Militia expands, what is now the PLGA would transform into the PLA. In Chhattisgarh alone, the People’s Militia has an estimated strength of 35,000 men and women.
The Maoists also resolved at the Unity Congress to launch an all-India Tactical Counter-Offensive Campaign (TCOC), in order to put the state on the defensive, in the wake of the Maoist movement being weakened at the pan-India level. A succession of attacks followed across various affected states, peaking in the Rani Bodli slaughter.
On March 15, the Maoists attacked a temporary armed outpost in Rani Bodli village in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh and massacred 55 policemen, including personnel of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force and Special Police Officers. It was a chilling reminder of the lethal capacities of the Naxalites — their meticulous planning, fine execution, and large-scale deployment.
In Rani Bodli, several hundred members of the People’s Militia, comprising ordinary men and women who otherwise have an avocation in life, were involved alongside well-trained, hardened Maoist cadres in the onslaught. Significantly, not a single villager in Rani Bodli reportedly came to the rescue of the police while they were being massacred. Besides, Chhattisgarh Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam admitted to the media on March 22: “Information at the grassroots level is not arriving at the government.” This sharply illustrates the wedge that exists between the people and the ‘state’ in Naxalite-affected areas.
Successive governments both in Madhya Pradesh — of which Chhattisgarh was a part until November 1, 2000 — and for many years in the new state after it came into existence, adopted a hands-off approach towards the Naxalites, and allowed them to expand and consolidate their presence. While on the one hand, the state’s police was left unprepared to face or fight the Naxalites, on the other, meagre efforts were made to accelerate the socio-economic development of the region. Thus, the state has failed to reach out to the people.
Resultantly, large swathes of southern Chhattisgarh are today “liberated areas”. Moreover, it is, indeed, a matter of concern that there has been no change in the approach of the state even after it is widely recognised in officialdom that the focus of state response in order to stymie Naxalite influence — both of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the governments in various affected states — has been excessively tilted towards militarily crushing the Naxalites, rather than hastening the pace of socio-economic development. In this wake, the Naxalites would gain more than the state.
PV Ramana is a Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi
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