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By Avni Sablok

New Delhi, September 26: While addressing students at Gujarati Vidyapith in 1939, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel said, “One can take the path of revolution. But the revolution should not give a shock to the society. There is no place for violence in revolution.”

Use of violent means such as armed insurgencies are abhorrent as it glorifies violence as the primary means to overwhelm the existing socio-economic and political structures and in turn weakens a nation’s security apparatus.

The marginalised sections of society like the tribal are bearing the brunt of such a spiralling cycle of violence that occurred decades ago.

Over the years, the Naxal violence or Left-Wing Extremism (LWE), whose origin is traced to the Naxalbari uprising in 1967, has followed a strategy of building their influence in remote areas where presence of the state machinery was weak and access difficult.

It grew to a movement impacting many districts in India and began executing high profile attacks against the Indian State with violence and brutality combined with effective propaganda as their preferred method of functioning. They not only misled the locals by keeping them under constant fear, but also became hurdles for the developmental programmes of the state.

The geographical spread of LWE violence was such that in 2013 it had engulfed 328 police stations in 76 districts spread over 10 States. With the aim to overthrow the democratic institutions in India through a protracted ‘people’s war’, the naxal movement had spread across a number of states in new forms such as ‘urban naxalism’ and utilising a renewed approach, thus altering the internal security situation in the country.

This threat to the internal stability was viewed from a holistic lens and a multi-pronged strategy was envisaged by the central government in the National Policy and Action Plan-2015 to combat LWE, with various development initiatives, ensuring rights and entitlements of local communities as important focus areas.

Further, giving a boost to the holistic strategy and breaking the romantic illusions of the younger generation about the Maoist ideology, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort, cautioned the youth that the nation “will never tolerate violence… It will never succumb to Maoism” and advised that there is “still time- return to the mainstream”.

The government strategy ranged from filling critical gaps in public infrastructure, providing access to skill development, setting up educational institutes to promoting financial inclusion by improving banking facilities, post offices in the LWE areas of the country.

Steadfast implementation of the Action Plan-2015 resulted in consistent decline in LWE related violence and considerable shrinkage in its geographical spread.

As a result of these continuous efforts, the geographical spread of LWE violence has been reduced considerably with the incidents of such violence being reported from 328 PSs (Police Stations) in 76 districts spread over 10 States in 2013, to 226 PSs in 53 districts spread across nine States in 2020.

Also, as reported by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the LWE related violence in the country declined by 77 per cent from an all-time high of 2258 incidents in 2009 to 509 in 2021. The casualties linked to the security forces and civilians due to these incidents has also declined by 85 per cent from an all-time high of 1005 in 2010 to 147 in 2021.

Further, the infamously dubbed ‘Red Corridor’ has certain states where the Maoists have a relatively strong presence that include Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar. This is mostly because the Maoist factions tend to control pockets of territory in the underdeveloped areas that are not easily accessible.

The security forces achieved a milestone with a recent crackdown through which they cleared Budhapahad, a forested area in the tri-junction of Latehar and Garhwa districts in Jharkhand and Balrampur district in neighbouring Chhattisgarh, and the extremely inaccessible areas of Chakrabandha and Bhimabandh of Bihar, of Left-Wing Extremism (LWE).

The security forces were able to successfully oust the Maoists from their strongholds, recovered a huge quantity of arms, ammunition, foreign grenades, Aero Bombs and IEDs and set up a permanent camp for the security forces camps in the Budhapahad area.

This area was dominated by Maoists for the last three decades with the Maoist operatives planting improvised explosive devices (IED), among other strategies, and making it nearly impossible for security forces to make a breakthrough even after conducting multiple operations over the years.

But the coordinated efforts and campaigns of the Central and State Security Forces and related agencies have led to an unprecedented progress in the fight against Left Wing Extremism (LWE).

By converging its efforts on the development and growth of the LWE districts, increasing security related expenditure, providing specialized training to the forces in the States, helicopters for LWE related duties, funds for modernization of State Police Forces, upgrading equipment and arms, sharing of intelligence, constructing Fortified Police Stations, etc. the central government has strived to achieve Prime Minister Modi’s vision of an LWE free India and zero tolerance policy against extremism.

(Author is a senior researcher with Public Policy Research Centre)

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