Naxalite movements have disturbed the peace and solidarity of several states in India for the last 35 years. While in some states it exists in a mild form, in others it has become a cause for concern. The reasons for the rise of these movements are different in the individual states.
In Andhra Pradesh, the naxalite movement that ravaged the state at one point has weakened in recent years. To date, around 6000 people have been killed in this movement which started in 1969 in Srikakulam district, more than 35 years back. The Director General of Police, SSP Yadav, told reporters in December 2007 that the Maoist attacks had come down from 194 in 2006 to 87 in 2007. But they have not ended. In 2007, 40 civilians, 4 policemen and 43 extremists died in 124 incidents within the state. The eminent Maoist leader, and Nagamalla forest division committee secretary, Nagi Reddy, better known as Sagar, was arrested last year.
The main demand of the naxalites has been land reforms in the rural areas of the state in a just manner in order to alleviate the agricultural community. It included providing land to the landless farmers and preventing land from being used for industrial purposes which has no benefits for the poor farmers. These grievances compelled the naxalites to collect arms and involve themselves in separatist violence in the state. Their demands can be categorised under five heads, distribution of land, distribution of forest resources, getting minimum wages, gaining social dignity and securing self governance. But it is a pity that most of these movements have since taken the lives of many innocent persons and policymakers.
It is also evident that these naxalite groups operating in Andhra Pradesh, including the Maoist groups, have plenty of funds, as they extort huge amounts of money from professionals and forest department officials and contractors. It is reported that they also receive a share out of the forest development projects by dominating these areas. The PWG has been one of the leading groups involved in the naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh. On one occasion, when the police and the law enforcing authorities in the state successful arrested a group of naxalites, the latter in retribution kidnapped some IAS officers and other government officials to demand the release of the arrested persons.
In the early 90s, the State Government, instead of banning the Naxalites, had allowed them to operate freely because harsh measures did not yield the expected results. The ban was re-imposed and again lifted by the succeeding governments. Both measures however failed to give positive results.
In regard to remedial measures, the following issues need to be revisited. Firstly, the hilly regions and tribal belts require more government participation. There is an administrative vacuum in large parts of the state where low security has led to operations by the naxalites and other anti-social groups. Security must be strengthened in these areas as the naxalites operate mostly in these areas. If there is corruption in implementing forest development projects, this can only be arrested by strong government action. Secondly, the backward areas have to be developed through poverty alleviation, employment generation and tribal welfare programs as soon as possible, which basically meets the demands of the naxalites.
The rights of the tribal population over forest produce should be acknowledged because they had been enjoying them for generations, and the acquisition of their lands by the government for industrial purposes leads to a new form of rebellion. The police stations should also be linked to local self government in the rural areas. These groups have greater interaction with the people and their problems can be properly tackled by the police in this manner.
Magisterial powers should be granted to officers of the revenue and development agencies so that cases can be easily settled. The justice system also requires decentralisation so that the judges-population ratio is improved and the people do not have to travel long distances to get access to justice. It is true that separatist movements can be best addressed by analysing the grievances and bringing about workable solutions. Since the naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh is on the decline, if the measures as mentioned above are taken systematically and a reorientation undertaken in the respective departments, these steps could end the movement altogether in future.