Does India need its army to tackle the Maoists?

June 22, 2009

I have been noticing a debate in newspapers and television channels about the need to call in the army to tackle the Maoists and wonder whether it is indeed time to turn towards them before the movement spirals out of control.

Last week, hundreds of Maoists, who are expanding their influence in India, chased away police from a tribal area based around the town of Lalgarh about 170 km (100 miles) from Kolkata, capital of West Bengal state.

By attacking Lalgarh and then keeping the police at bay for four days, the Maoists demonstrated their growing influence over poor villagers and their capability to strike close to a big city like Kolkata.

(For Analysis on how Maoist insurgency can hurt industry in India, click here )

Thousands of villagers caught in the crossfire have left their homes in panic and have been put up in makeshift government camps. They are clearly shaken by the siege and the subsequent police campaign to sanitise Lalgarh.

Indian states have time and again asked the central government that it might need the army to fight the Maoist movement, which is rapidly spreading in the country.

But for the moment, India is banking on the police to tackle the Maoists and equipping its forces with modern weapons and training to fight the Maoists in their own den.

Experts say it is clear that the strategy of the rebels with their 22,000 plus combatants is to encircle bigger towns and cities and could hit industry.

Maybe Indian authorities should also rework their strategy as the police with their limited prowess have always been soft targets in rural areas and have failed to gain confidence of poor villagers.

Will India look to deploy the army at some stage?

(Reuters photo of a paramilitary soldier keeping watch from a tree in Jhitka near Lalgarh June 21, 2009)

29 comments

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“Will India look to deploy the army at some stage?”

–No. firstly because para-military forces are well-equiped & competent to take on this mao nuisance, they’re limited & most probably remain so to the poorest belt, tribal & forest areas – thus not provoking any urban or semi-urban public outcry, mainly because at the end of the day – they’re but Indians & their ‘revolution’ (irrespective of other perceptions)is indegenious.

Posted by anup | Report as abusive

If the maoists effected areas need any para milltary force to be employed then why cant we think of the same when people are brought down to dead corpses in many parts of the country,where maoism does not find its mention.Their revolution is not a foreign invasion against the country.Its home grown.Why cant it be sorted out through discussions as there have been a proposition in the past?Isnt the employing of para millitary for their suppression giving fuel to their revolution?

Posted by Moumita | Report as abusive

If the army is deployed to fight Maoists(who are basically Indians)who will fight the foriegn elements looking to attack us from across the borders?

The solution is to listen to them and achieve a solution. Either give them what they want or stop this non sense once and for all.

We keep talking about Terrorism and yet these people are killing police and paramilitary forces. The government needs to act fast.

Posted by Somnath | Report as abusive

Yes they are killing police and the para millitary forces.But just to add innocent people are also being killed in the name of maoist operation.So it needs to be sorted out.If they are for any revolution, they must have some points to speak on.Why cant we listen to them and come to a conclusion?

Posted by Moumita | Report as abusive

The issue of Maoist movement in India or elsewhere (Nepal, Philippines, Peru, Turkey etc ) is not a law and order issue. It’s a socio-economic issue. Unless and until the main socio-economic issues that led to this movement are not addressed, no matter in what way it is suppressed – using paramilitary forces or the Army – it is going to come up again. Sending Army to crush their movement is not the solution.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

We don’t need the army to adress the naxalite issue. What we need is the political will to tackle it.
Mamta Banerjee was in cohoots with naxalites in Nandigram (she was not in power) now when she is in power, naxals have become untouchables.
Communism much like communalism is inherently violent. Real development should take place to overcome this.
The naxalite hit areas are one of the most backward areas in India. The cities that are being atlked about is nothing more than a small town by today’s standards. Kolkata for all its glory hasn’t been able to grow in the last 20-30 years.
The naxalite movement can be solved by proper policing (give them better weapons), police action (using the para-military forces) and political action on development and creating job opportunities for the youth.

Posted by Aman | Report as abusive

I agree with Paul.This is not a budding issue.Its been decades old.Everytime it is crushed,its comes up and it will continue doing so bcoz the root cause is never addressed.Army and suppression with power is not the key to conclusion.If the Socio-Economic structure cannot be changed(as its really difficult and close to impossible),at least it can be alligned after the discusion with them.But key point Para millitary force is not going to help.In doing so lots of lives will be lost.To keep in mind the maoist kill people but the innocent villagers.If a so called “social terror” can think of the innocent people,why cant we do the same and talk over the matter?

Posted by Moumita | Report as abusive

I am not sure but the government may have to deploy army. Indian internal security is a mess. Infact, every Indian will agree that it is a torture to go through India’s judicial system wherein overwhelming majority of implementers, right from beat constable to Chief Justice of India cannot be trusted and are rotten and corrupt to the core. Rise of Naxalism in such conditions cannot be attributed to outside forces but to needs of people which are being fulfilled by them.

If one dacoit in Chitrakoot can hold some 400 odd uniformed dacoits at bay for more than 48 hours and eliminate 4 of them then I guess > 20 K Naxals should wipe out entire police force of West Bengal easily.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

Rohit,u r absolutely correct with the arithmatic calculation concerning the chances of the Naxals to wipe out the Police force in WB.But dont u think there is a difference between a dacoit fighting to meet his self ends and the naxal who give up the luxury of life to search for a place for a deserving underprivileged Indian?All naxalites are not from the rural side and they are not at all illiterates.And as per police force goes dont u admit that they even are corrupted?What does your calculation say?I admit,the path naxalites have taken to create a balance in the social and ecomic life is not appreciated.But dont u think there should be a balance in the urban and rural life?Instead of crushing them it can be talked over.Correct me if I am wrong.

Posted by Moumita | Report as abusive

The government first lets the police and the bureaucracy do all the wrong against poor, illiterate, and ignorant people. Then these people don’t know where to go and what to do. Enter naxalites/maoists/etc. or rather they are born. And the government tries to suppress them like pest control. The root cause remains. This is not the end of the story. It goes on and on and on… perhaps till India has lost some of it’s population. It’s a vicious circle.

Justice will solve all problem. Try it sometimes before you go into one of your violence frenzy for bloodlust.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Bappa Majumdar:
Correct me if I am wrong, don’t Maoists want good governance. Is it that hard a concept? I think sense will not prevail until Maoists hit a big politician.

Also from security POV, don;t security forces have matching fire power?

It is mainly a political issue and people want the basic needs fulfilled.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Moumita,

When I summed the entire internal security system of country as rotten and corrupt to core, it automatically includes police.

I do not subscribe to view that problems can be talked over.

In case you want to analyze then when we got independence in 1947, great leaders of India had removal of poverty, illiteracy, equality, and a term “secularism” on their list only once in every five years. Subsequently, and ever since I have seen, understood politics, the only issue our politicians have is removal of poverty, illiteracy, equality, and a term “secularism”. Time after time, every time, for more than 60 years, poverty, education, secularism has ruled the roost and yet no one in India is accountable.

Majority of Indians live to die struggling for their basic needs each day. Majority of Indians do not have luxury to care about fellow Indians. For example the naxal problem of West Bengal won’t create even a murmur in Bihar or UP or Delhi. Similarly, even if Mumbai would have been wiped out in the attacks last year, no one would have given a damn and forgotten the incident after couple of months.

The cures for a mismanaged nation are not many and are not sweet.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

Maoism is a remnant of the communist ideology and is alien to Indian thought and ethos. It was borrowed from the revolutions within China and is more chinese in outlook than Indian and hence will never work in the Indian sub-context. The Indian way is to argue through discussions and public debates – without maiming or killing people who don’t listen – quite opposite of what Maoism preaches. Let the army be called if needed to crush this ruthless phenomena but let a dialogue be carried out in the public domain as well with the affected people. It is often suppressed anger and disappointment of the people that is dressed in communist overtones. Agree the people who participate are Indian but strongly disagree that it is pan-Indian – because communism is an imported fad that has already lost its relevance across the world and has never derived its strength from Indianness. In short its a cancer needing a strong medicine / surgery to eliminate to let social wounds heal.

Posted by Siva | Report as abusive

If India deals with Maoists like Pakistan’s dealing with Taliban, it would be a great mistake. Maoists are not totally in military posture. They infiltrate by indoctrinate. Treat them as spies and deploy undercovers from internal security to crack them down would be a better option than let them distract our army from guarding the border.

Posted by Herdip Singh | Report as abusive

Correction

Please read “I do not subscribe to view that problems can be talked over” as “I do not subscribe to view that all problems can be talked over”

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

dear friend,
To tackle naxalism one should not straight away talk about army operation. It should be noted that naxals are Indians only but misdirected due to selfish stratigies of our own politicians.
To tackle naxalism, reformation is needed to be brought in the affected areas, their feeling of being neglected should be atleast tried to be wiped out, they should be made to feel that they are the important part of the country. More development like roads construction, factories, employment to people of that area only in those factories, their political representative in the mainstream politics will certainly bring their anger down and most importantly they need to be educated by bringing schools colleges just like any other place in India. There should be a feeling that thay are respected like a any other Indian.

Posted by rahul | Report as abusive

Do we need the army to tackle the naxals? The short answer is no. What we need is political will and a well trained, motivated, professional police force – unfortunately it lacks all the above.

The army should not be used to solve problems created by neglect, lack of good administration. It is foolish to pit the armed forces against their own countrymen.

Will it use the army at some stage? Probably yes. The army seems to be the only remedy politicians have now a days to get them out of a mess they themselves create. In the long run, this is detrimental to the army and the country’s security. what we badly need is people with a broader vision in administration and politics.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

If the govt provides corrupt free, honest and fair administration; judiciary providing timely judgements; and a mechanism where the poorest of the poor have their voices heard, then the Maoist threat will vanish over night. They are our own people, and are not asking for a separate home land. We only need roses and not guns to solve this.

Posted by Vikram | Report as abusive

Its nice to see so many thoughts, but isn’t it only fair we acknowledge our shortcomings at this stage? We have to start with ourselves.. We are educated, smart and can reason. We have talent, power and resources. Maybe because we lack the will to do something, or put our needs as a primary priority or maybe, like me, we procastinate; the result is that we just stand by and let the very reasons for things like Naxalism come into play. We can by ourselves, remove atleast one person from the grasp of naxalism by doing something. As a group, I’m sure we can do much, like create a agricultural union and consume what they produce.. The villagers get the incentive of new resources(intellectual, financial, material) and we get food, and satisfaction of having done something good. Educate them, empower them with basic math, reading skills etc which will aid them in thier lives. Set examples which promote thinking and not blind following. Lead by example, we cahnge ourselves first, then our families, our friends. Over time, the relatives, society, the town, city, district so on. I know its easy to talk, so I’m planning to start my contribution by teaching failed students how to use the computer.Lets see if I can imbibe some basic math, english etc into the course. What are you going to contribute?

Posted by Gautam | Report as abusive

Rohit,
I absolutely agree with u that not only in WB but everywhere in the country people are insecure and driven by proverty.And we have so much to do about it!! But if all of us shrug our shoulders who is gonna help them.Dont u agree that these deprived poeple(not any partcular state) dont even know the provisions made in the constitution?At least the naxals are educating them & channelizing their voice to the Govt.But they are being given deaf ear since the revolution started when even I was not born.Yes,politicians speak about removal of illiteracy and poverty.But their action demonstrates removal of illiterates and poor.If we are not living in that luxury to help any struggling or deprived fellow Indian,we can at least be honest to ourselves that they do need help and some people have taken up the responsibilty to do so.We spend a thousand or more 2 watch a movie in a multiplex and hang around with friends but most people dont even earn that much in a month!!Todays India cannot think about absolute equality but basic needs can be fullfilled.At least people should know what they deserve. I am no politician or an active supporter but at least we can have a common verdict that Naxals are Indians and they are not asking for seperate land & they are not after religious fight.They are not terrorists to be suppressed by army.So these literate people can be listened to.

Posted by Moumita | Report as abusive

Has anyone ever seen the difference between the villages in south and villages in Jharkhand/W.B, etc?
If you compare the two then villages in south will look like a small town. Widespread poverty (imagine these people still use bow and arrow), illiteracy and complete lack of infrastructure has led to discontent which has become violent now. They are not speratist, they just want development and if the government can’t provide it then they want to do it themselves.
The only way forward is political will for development of these regions. I can’t say that all the violence is ideology related because naxals are known to stall development projects by digging roads, uprooting rail tracks etc. So police action is also required to supress the hard core naxals. The fringe elements in the movement should be allowed to resettle and should be provided with jobs.
As far as military goes, its a law and order problem and should be dealt by the police.
If the system is rotten then we can’t have army do the police’s job. It will be better to improve the system rather than let it rot.

Posted by Aman | Report as abusive

Moumita,

With due respect to your feelings about naxals, I believe that you are an emotional thinker.

I do not know what Naxals are exactly demanding but if they stand for up liftment of poor people, and as you say are educated, then they should have adapted better ways to empower poor persons. If Naxals were really interested in development and upliftment of these poor people, they would not have indulged in picking gun/ bombs in order to bring down living & non living things what they believe is wrong. If Naxals have so much of clout and are so much revered by the poor people then, by lifting arms, the Naxals have fooled them and brought misery on these poor folks.

Let us for example presume that Government gives say 10,000 Crores per annum to Naxals every year to uplift the poor. Take it in writing, the poor will remain poor because the monitory needs of leaders (naxals) is not defined and they will continue to fool people.

Naxals have failed to bring any concrete positive result in lives of poor by resorting to arms and are fooling poor, illiterate, unaware villagers by creating image in minds of poors that they are saviors and all other Indians are demons. Their method has brought, as of now, a fatal danger on lives of poor people who believe that the danger has been forced by Government.

Now coming to solution, as I said, India is a mismanaged nation and the remedies for a mismanaged nation are not many and for sure, none are sweet. Given the inherent callous and careless nature, we Indian possess, large scale natural calamity like massive floods, long period of droughts etc and unpleasant events, like a long long war, forced by time can only help solve our problems.

Congress or BJP or Left Parties or Naxals or any Regional Party, will only fool people like they are doing till date. You can give them another 60 years and you will still remain where you are i.e., voting for issues like poverty, education, secularism.

Oh yes, do not take me as a pessimist for my views but do try to enlighten me as to what can be better alternative with some facts and figures.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

Time for a mini revolution in reverse order.
Enough of mediation and soft talk which never helped anyway. Bloodshed, as it should be the last recourse, is sometimes the only way in situations like this. This naxalite menace is going on for many decades. Now is the time to wipe out these antinationals killing police and defence forces.

Most of Indian poor, on welfare scheme, get rice and wheat on subsidized price, say a Kilo of rice at just Rs2 in Andhra. A cup of coffee in a rail station costs 4-8 rupees, for comparison. The enemy is an anti democratic terrorist force armed with sophisticated hardware that deters even police. These fringe elements are also partaking in the border insurgency and joining hands with terrorists in exchange for arms. These men work as extortionists as well. Businesses will not grow in these areas. First these thugs go then enter the businesses that in turn bring in industry and jobs.

Gautam,
congrats and good luck. You are the best.Lot of Swayam Sevaks do the same.

A little on a tangent, apart from ensuring social and political reforms to tackle the Naxalism menace, we need to strengthen our police and paramilitary forces to ensure we don’t start looking towards the army every time a leaf drops.
The recent encounter between a thousand policemen and one dacoit at Chitrakoot has underlined once again that police reforms are an imperative that cannot be postponed any longer. We have to Reform or Perish .

Moumita
“But dont u think there is a difference between a dacoit fighting to meet his self ends and the naxal who give up the luxury of life to search for a place for a deserving underprivileged Indian?”

-Yes! The dacoit is a mere criminal, a product of the society, but a naxal (the ‘literate’ leaders & not the illiterate mass cadres) is a parasite, who deceives & devours into the psyche of the already destitute people by exploiting their ignorance for his own self-centred greed & lust for power, money using them to legitimize & satisfy his sadistic blood-thirst, they find symphatizers in society who harbor similar psychotic disorders.

Posted by anup | Report as abusive

What we are witnessing today is a direct result on account of negligence shown by politicians and beurocrats towards innocent and poor people.

Posted by Sridhar | Report as abusive

I have been living abroad (Europe and the US) for the past 13 years and makes me very sad to see Naxalilites still trying to fight a battle against the police.

It is like LTTE trying to fight the Srilankan government for 30 years or the Talibans fighting the Pakistani government.

Ignorance is a bliss in this case !

The real problem is the population of individual states and that of India and nobody wants to question that issue. Then it the CPI(M) party and its politicians and then the Indian politicians in that order. The Naxalites can never win this war and it does not make any sense.
One could understand the need for revolution when India was a young democracy. Today after 60 years it hardly makes any sense.

The Naxals should change their strategy and fight as a party instead of using force and if they get elected they will understand (like the Adivashis in Jharkahnd) to govern a country.

India is meant for 200 million people and not 1.2 billion.

Posted by iJay | Report as abusive

Well said iJay… You hit the head of the nail “India is meant for 200 million people and not 1.2 billion”

God knows when the politicians will grow and address the problems of nation. They are all busy in minting money. Naxals are also the same like politicians but with gun in hand (As they do not have police or army as of now). They are not interested in development and upliftment of poor but their exploitation.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive