Left-wing Extremism (LWE) continued to remain as one of the major challenges to India’s internal security in 2013. Its intensity persisted especially in three states – Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa – apart from significant presence in West Bengal, Bihar, and Maharashtra. At the same time, the left-wing extremists have successfully managed to penetrate into some of the states of the northeast and south of India and into few of the urban areas.
The Expansion in 2013
In 2013, the Maoists continue to push the boundaries of the ‘Red Corridor’ and set up support bases in upper Assam and some of the tribal areas in the hilly interiors. The presence of Maoists is felt in pockets of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Sivasagar, Golaghat and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam and Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh (adjoining Tinsukia). The Maoists have also been trying to extend their presence in southern India, especially around tri-junction of Tamil Nadu-Kerala-Karnataka. As far as urban areas are concerned, significant Maoist activities, especially of its front organisations, have been reported from places like Delhi and the National Capital Region, Gurgaon, NOIDA, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, Nagpur, Surat, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Raipur, Durg, Patna, Hyderabad, Rourkela, Bhubaneswar, Guwahati and Chandigarh.
Decline in Violence Statistics in 2013
Compared to 2011-12, the number of violent incidents and killings due to LWE has come down in 2013. However, though less in numbers, the attacks by Maoists have been intense and brutal. One of such ruthless attacks was made on a convoy of Congress leaders and workers at Jeeram Ghati in Jagdalpur district of Chhattisgarh on 25 May 2013 that claimed 28 lives and injured scores of others. Those killed included Mahendra Karma, a former Minister of Chhattisgarh and a former Lok Sabha member, Nand Kumar Patel, the state’s Congress chief, his son Dinesh Patel, and former MLA Uday Mudliyar; former Union minister Vidya Charan Shukla and Konta MLA Kawasi Lakhma were critically injured. The convoy was an ideal target because of the presence of many high-profile leaders in one place, and that too with less security cover, passing through a most vulnerable area.
The year witnessed a shrink in the number of middle- and top-level Maoist leaders due to killings or arrests or surrenders. This happened mostly in Odisha, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Yet, one cannot assert with absolute confidence that the Left-wing Extremism is on the wane.
The State Response: Two Pronged Strategy in 2013
Conflict management efforts by both Central and State governments were focused on two-pronged approach – security and development – with moderate success. On the security front, the Union government was supplementing the efforts of States that included providing Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Commando Battalions for Resolute Action (CoBRA), sanction of India Reserve (IR) battalions, setting up of Counter Insurgency and Anti-Terrorism (CIAT) schools, modernisation and upgradation of the State Police and their Intelligence apparatus under the Scheme for Modernization of State Police Forces (MPF scheme), re-imbursement of security related expenditure under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme and filling up critical infrastructure gaps under the Scheme for Special Infrastructure in Left Wing Extremism affected States. In addition, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) stationed at the Begumpet airport were helping the ground forces to track Maoist movement. However, in the absence of proper coordination with the CRPF, the state police forces were finding it difficult to keep pace with the Maoists. For instance, in 2013 coordination issue erupted in Bihar in a major way. In addition, most of the states were found wanting in utilisation of police modernisation funds.
On the development front, funds were allocated to the LWE-affected States under various Central Schemes like the Backward Regions Grant Fund, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Prime Minister’s Gram Sadak Yojna, National Rural Health Mission, Ashram Schools, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidhyutikaran Yojna and Sarva Siksha Abhiyan. In addition, the Government was implementing the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) to address development deficit in public infrastructure and services in 82 selected Districts. There was no paucity of funds. However, these initiatives were not been optimally implemented despite the presence of a number of review and monitoring mechanisms for different aspects of LWE problem and the measures needed to deal with it.
2014: A Forecast
Overall, on analyzing trends of LWE in 2013, it is clear that the conflict is going to continue in 2014 and beyond, thus keeping both Central and State governments on its toes. What is required, at the outset, is a political desire, if not the political will, to deal with the entire gamut of the threat.
Instead of slackness on account of the prevailing disturbed environment, the administrative apparatus should work overtime to ensure that all socio-economic development and poverty alleviation programmes are implemented with high efficiency and honesty and within an urgent timeframe. Good governance is the key. Attention is also required in making sure that the criminal justice system functions with speed, fairness, transparency and honesty, it is difficult to bring down prevailing “crisis of legitimacy”.