Maoist hold on Bastar remains strong

The Maoist attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) battalion in Chhattisgarh that resulted in the death of 14 personnel indicates that despite many Maoist surrenders, the latter remain a force to reckon with.

The attack, which happened deep in the forests of Sukma district, came just a day after Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh boasted that the Maoists in the state would be “finished soon.” Whether the bloody face- off happened in the course of search operations or after the battalion was lured into an ambush is not clear yet.

However, it is evident that the CRPF’s poor intelligence on the ground in South Bastar continues to cost it dearly. Several of the worst attacks on the CRPF in recent years were in Bastar.

A probe must establish why the CRPF battalion went into the forest a day ahead of the Maoists’ 10-day-long celebration of the 10th anniversary of the founding of their military wing, the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA). Shouldn’t the CRPF been maintaining a low profile at a time when the PLGA was expected to mark the anniversary with a major attack?

The past year has witnessed a nine-fold increase in the number of Maoist surrenders in Chhattisgarh. In fact, the state accounts for over half of all Maoists who surrendered in the country over the past year. Chhattisgarh also leads the country in the number of Maoists arrested. These figures would have, no doubt, prompted Chhattisgarh’s CM to make the highly optimistic prediction that the end of the Maoists was near. Fighting an insurgency is not easy.

Military operations, including eliminations, arrests and forced surrenders can only dent the capacity of insurgents. What gives insurgents’ their strength is the support they get from the masses.

And from the abysmal intelligence input available to the security forces in Sukma, it is evident that popular support for the Maoists remains strong and the state has not been able to break their bond with locals. Besides using intimidation to ferret out information from them, the government has not done anything to win their confidence.

What is more, the strategy to rehabilitate surrendered Maoists isn’t working well. With no jobs to turn to, many simply go back to fighting. This has kept insurgency alive in Chhattisgarh despite the much-hyped surrenders.

A fortnight ago at an election rally in Jharkhand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on Maoists to participate in nation-building. “Drop the gun and pick up the plough,” he said. However, for that to happen in a significant manner, the government will have to do a lot in terms of winning their trust and carrying out developmental work.

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