A big strike in Bihar. A smaller one in Andhra Pradesh. Continuing intimations of simmer from remote corners of Bastar. It would be erroneous to say the Naxals are back in the news. They have always been there, working their strategy, planning their next strike. Only, the State and the media seem to turn amnesiac. This is, in a sense, symptomatic of the problems with the State’s and the intelligentsia’s approach to the Naxal phenomenon. They get notice after a strike, they are forgotten as the heat peters out. The Naxals are not a one-strike or two-strike issue. They will not cease to be because the police or security forces have “strengthened vigil and brought in more reinforcements”. They cannot be tackled by posting a KPS Gill as special adviser. We have seen Gill arriving in Chhattisgarh, doing his bit, and departing, with the Naxals still active and probably prospering in the Dandakaranya jungles.
This is an issue that needs constant and consistent attention. This is not a law and order issue alone. It needs a basic rethink. It requires fundamental changes in the ways socio-economic relations are structured. Governments — at the Centre and in the states — have scarcely paid attention to correctives; they have only been pro-active on provocations. The Naxal-dominated areas are not merely the most backward, they are also areas where the so-called new global economy is being granted platforms — the opening of natural resources to multinationals and big industry, the creation of sezs, the allowance to outside interests to prospect for profit.
A lot of that is happening without taking into account local interests and often at their expense. Those protesting against the onward march of globalisation are not all Naxals, they are common citizens who believe their interests are being sacrificed to favour monopolists. To brush them aside as “Naxal-inspired” would not merely be unjust, it would be fatal. Displacement is a huge issue, and is at the core of agitations in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. If people perceive the State as inert to their interests, they will be tempted to find other solutions — in that region, through the Naxals. It isn’t enough to give the Naxals a bad name and beat them. They are the symptom of a malaise that the State itself has largely created. If the State is loathe to recognise that, it is only contributing to the proliferation of Naxalism.