NAXALISM CONFOUNDS THE INDIAN STATE
Geopolitics|May 2021
AJAY K MEHRA discusses why and how the Maoist menace is alive and kicking
AJAY K MEHRA 

Even as the Government of India has been resting on its supposed laurels of having incarcerated sixteen prominent activists, intellectuals, social workers, lawyers, cultural artists, dubbing them as ‘Urban Naxals’ three years back in the controversial Bhima Koregaon case, the ‘real’ Naxals killed 22, injured 31 and abducted one personnel (since released) of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on Sukma-Bijapur border in Chhattisgarh on April 3, 2021.

Obviously, despite the elimination of their leaders and masterminds Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad (July 1, 2010) and Mallojula Koteshwara Rao alias Kishenji (November 24, 2011) and in the midst of an organisational crisis facing them since suffering their biggest setback in Ramguda (Andhra Pradesh-Odisha border) in a strike by Telangna’s anti- Naxal special police Greyhounds (on October 24, 2016) that wiped out 30 of their cadres and the entire leadership (at least twenty of them) of the Malkangiri- Koraput-Vishakhapatnam border, the Naxal leadership has been able to rebuild itself in Chhattisgarh, this time under tribal leader Madvi Hidma.

In his late 40s or early 50s (his real age is a matter of speculation), Hidma is the youngest member of the Central Committee of the CPI (Maoist). A master strategist, he was responsible for several attacks on security forces, including the 2013 attack in Darbha valley in which Congress leader V C Shukla and Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Karma were killed.

Even though Naxal-affected districts have drastically reduced from over 200 in early 2000s to just 90 now, the Maoist ‘revolutionary’ politics still survives in the country 75 years since it first appeared in Telangana. How has this Marxist-Leninist-Maoist militancy been surviving since 1946 (the Telangana Movement) and the 1967 upsurge in Naxalbari (West Bengal), from which it still derives its name ‘Naxalism’, despite the counterinsurgency operations of the Indian state? How does it continue to be a serious security threat? A bigger question is that why India’s democratic politics has not been able to neutralise this ‘nowhere revolution’. At the recent Chhatisgarh episode, how has a lethal Maoist Naxal group under Madvi Hidma survived and consolidated to pose such a challenge to the Indian security forces?

Equally significant is the rise of Hidma, a local tribal from Chhattisgarh, in CPI (Maoist), which has been dominated since inception by leaders from Telangana/Andhra Pradesh. The answer to these questions can be sought in historical perspective. But first we take stock of what happened at Ramguda, Chhattisgarh.

What happened at Bijapur?

The latest episode at Sukma-Bijapur border in Chhatisgarh is an evidence of perfection the Maoists groups have achieved in guerrilla tactics. It also shows local support the rebels enjoy. On intelligence inputs that elusive Madvi Hidma, along with a large number of his foot-soldiers, was present at a village on the site of the incident, the CRPF planned and executed the operation. However, when the team reached the village, the Naxals were nowhere to be found. Dismayed, as they were returning, they came under heavy fire from the Maoists, who were heavily armed with grenade launchers and Light Machine Guns. Taken aback with this surprise attack, the CRPF party suffered heavy casualties. The security forces returned the fire and claimed to have inflicted similar casualties on the rebels. However, body of one female guerilla was recovered from the site and the Maoists acknowledged the death of four of their cadre.

In case we accept the number of the Maoist casualties given by the CRPF, it goes against the counter-insurgency ratio. While 22:22 gives a ratio of 1:1, the counter-insurgency operation given by experts is 8:1, i.e., eight insurgents and one security personnel. Obviously, this operation went terribly wrong. First, there was an appalling intelligence failure. Second, the security forces suffered heavy loss, while casualty they inflicted remains contested. Third, a trap was laid for the CRPF by sending wrong input shows that local villagers to a large extent provide support to the rebels. The security forces, and central paramilitary forces such as the CRPF in any case outsiders to the area, have not been able to build bridges with the local population, from where they can get actionable intelligence regarding the Maoists.

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