This was certainly a first-of-its-kind attack by the Naxals. Targeting a Congress rally and killing the leaders exposed the most heinous face of the Naxals, who appear to be one of the biggest threats to the country in the current scenario. However, this was not the first such massacre by the Maoists in Chhattisgarh; we all remember the Maoist ambush in April 2010 wherein as many as 76 personnel of paramilitary forces were massacred.
Chhattisgarh has often been in the national news for the Naxal menace in the state, and undoubtedly, the state has been severely wounded with gun battles, Naxal attacks and encounters. This, in a state which has a stable government and a CM like Raman Singh, who is hailed as an able administrator. In the north-east of Chhattisgarh is another 2001-born state, Jharkhand, which has mostly been in news for its unstable governments since its inception.
Just like Chhattisgarh, the state of Jharkhand has been a hotbed of Naxals. While districts such as Palamau, Chatra, Latehar, Gumla and Lohardagga have been known to be Naxal warzones, there are at least 12 more districts where the extremists have not just spread their wings, in fact, they have gradually transformed them into safe zones.
The innumerable anti-Naxal operations by the Jharkhand police and paramilitary forces in the past have proved to be no deterrent to the spread and rise of Naxalism in the state. And according to the locals, the prime cause of this is the lack of political will and alleged connection between big political leaders (cutting across party lines) and the Maoists. It is said that the possibility of a candidate winning an election in the state is practically impossible unless he goes for a ‘handshake’ with the Naxals. This alleged political compulsion has made things worse for the state.
There are times when district judges or district magistrates are asked to remove the red/orange beacon from their vehicles. And this is done to prevent any Naxal strike on them, the threat of which persists even as the VIPs have police or CRPF escort vehicles with them.
Let us now talk about the capital of the state, Ranchi. A unique feature about Ranchi is that the town is surrounded by three Army cantonment areas, which certainly provide a good cover to the capital. And this is probably a reason why we have not heard of any major Naxal or terror attack in the state capital. But what makes the situation grim is the fact that Naxals have reached almost the outskirts of Ranchi. Just an hour’s drive outside Ranchi and you get to hear stories of Naxal landmine blasts and firing in the area. Now that the Naxals have virtually surrounded the state capital, the threat of them spreading their wings inside it looms large.
I have had the opportunity to live in Naxal-hit districts of the state, and also interact with the members of the district administration, including Superintendents of Police, District Magistrates, and Judges and CRPF commandants. And going by what they say, the paramilitary and state police and anti-Naxal forces are in constant threat of being attacked by the extremists. Their vehicles ply on the roads and highways under the threat of a landmine blast or gun attack by the Maoists.
According to them, the main cause of the situation reaching this condition is the lack of proper governance in the state. A political will to counter the Naxal menace is a distant dream for the state, which has no government at the helm to even take a stock of the situation. And last time when the polls took place in Jharkhand, a candidate who got elected was in jail on charges of allegedly being a Naxal commander in several districts. Such is the clout and influence of Naxals in the political circumference, though this seems little ironical in the wake of the Chhattisgarh Naxal attack on the Congress rally.
Of course, not all politicians/leaders in the state have tie ups with the Naxals. But even those who have no links also have no will to counter the menace. There are reports that the police/CRPF have on some occasion surrounded major Naxal meetings with their top commanders attending it, but have failed to yield any result. Either they have failed to strike on time, or even if they have, they have been unable to get desired results. This is enough to suggest an intelligence failure, or it tells us that the intelligence of the Naxals is better timed, if not more efficient, than that of the system.
What’s worrying is the fact that despite the Naxals hitting hard in several areas of the state, the administration has not been able to hit back and conduct combing operations at the required level. We all remember the recent incident in the state where bombs were planted by the Naxals in the stomach of a CRPF personnel. It is tough to recall any stern decisive step taken post that incident.
In the case of May 25 Chhattisgarh Naxal attack, there were immediate reports of the Union Home Ministry sending additional paramilitary forces to conduct combing operations in the area. Several Congress leaders, including former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi, termed the incident as a major lapse on the part of the Raman Singh-led BJP government. But in Jharkhand, where the Centre is in full command with the imposition of the President’s rule, they have not been able to strike back at the Naxals even after their heinous act of planting bomb inside the body of security personnel. This speaks volume about the concern and intention of the administration as a whole.
There are talks of the Congress and the JMM coming together to form the government in Jharkhand. But this battle is beyond party lines – it is an administrative issue. Hopefully, the Jharkhand administration takes a lesson from what happened in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh and goes for a decisive step against the Naxals. Otherwise, a situation may arise where the face of Naxalism in Jharkhand, and even in other affected states such as Kerala and Maharashtra, turns uglier than ever. We certainly do not want a Dantewada or Sukma to happen to Jharkhand or any other state for that matter.