BY RSN SINGH
An analysis of recent events related to Maoist terrorism shows that the four-decades-old phenomenon has entered its most dangerous phase. The abduction of two Italian nationals, Paolo Bosusco and Claudio Colangelo, on 18 March, the deportation of 10 French tourists from Bihar in the last week of April, the abduction of the Odisha MLA Jhina Hikaka on 24 March, and the abduction of Alex Menon, the Sukma Collector in Chhattisgarh and the killing of his two bodyguards on 21 April — may appear ostensibly disparate occurrences, but are linked.
When pieced together, they suggest that Maoist terrorism has entered a critical phase wherein a final assault is being made on the political fabric – Indian democracy. Crucial to this assault are the international benefactors of the Maoists and their over-ground elements in the cloak of intellectuals and social-activists.
In fact, this assault was discernible some years ago and the foreign-hand was quite evident when members of the European Commission descended on Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, to witness the trial of Binayak Sen in the high court. The internal hand was also quite evident when subsequently an outrageous step was taken to appoint Binayak Sen as a member of a health committee of the Planning Commission. The idea was to ‘cock a snook’ at one segment of the Indian establishment even while another segment was hopelessly engaged in restraining the Maoists.
It was meant to be an assault on the psyche and morale of the security forces. The anti-national agenda of the white-collared Maoists triumphed over the patriotism, sacrifice and diligence of the security forces.
The collaborative or dismissive or nonchalant attitude of the Indian establishment continues to sink to abysmal depths. While politicians, bureaucrats and media personnel make a beeline to the house of Alex Paul Menon, the abducted collector who was recently released, the sacrifices of two policemen guarding him have gone altogether unsung. One of them was 28-year-old Amjad Khan. He was shot three times from point-blank range. This three-bullet treatment by the Maoists was because Amjad had retaliated when his colleague Kujur, the other jawan, was killed. Amjad belonged to the minority community and Kujur was a tribal.
The BJD MLA from Laxmipur in Odisha, Jhina Hikaka, is also a tribal. It was the tribal who voted him to the Assembly. He is the people’s representative. In a ‘Kangaroo Court’, the Maoists allegedly extracted a promise that he would resign from the assembly. This was said so by a Maoist leader calling herself ‘Aruna’ in an audio message aired by a local television channel. Ironically, in the forefront of the abduction operation of Alex Paul Menon in Chhattisgarh was also a woman.
The Maoist leaders have, over a period of time, created such terror that women have no option but to become tools of violence and sex in the service of male cadres. Villages are being terrorised to ‘donate’ at least one child from each family to the cause of Maoist terror. This is the story of the ‘liberated zone’ of the Maoists. Those who resisted formed the ‘Salwan Judum’ (peace-march) only to find security in the ‘non-liberated zone’ of the Maoist or government-controlled territory. But our so-called intellectuals, or white-collared criminals supporting the Maoists, gave the ‘Salwan Judum’ movement a totally new meaning. They, and the international benefactors of the Maoists, went on an overdrive in every conceivable public platform, importantly the media and the judiciary.
Coming back to the Maoist assault on the political fabric of India, only six months ago the Maoists had gunned down another BJD legislator, Jagabandhu Majhi, and his security guard . He was a popular tribal leader and represented the Umerkote constituency. He was wheelchair bound as a consequence of an attempt on his life by the Maoists in 2004. All his life Jagabandhu had fought for the land rights of tribals. Ironically, the MLA was killed while distributing land ownership papers (pattas) to landless tribals. He was killed because the Maoists were unnerved by the feeling that their constituency was being weaned away.
The Maoists do not brook any element or organ of the state which seeks to dilute their sway over the people in ‘liberated zones’. The only people who can end their captivity under the Maoists are politicians, particularly elected representatives, whatever their worth. That they are desperately looking for windows of opportunity to break away from Maoist shackles is substantiated by their participation in elections despite the diktat of the Maoists. Most small-time and influential local politicians in the Red Corridor have either been eliminated or terrorised by the Maoists.
Such has been the level of Maoist terror that in the panchayat elections in Jharkhand and Odisha, a large number of seats went in favour of the Maoists uncontested. There were many other seats wherein victory for the proxy candidates of the Maoists was ensured by sheer terror. With large sums of money now being allocated by the government directly to panchayats, a situation has now arisen wherein the government will now be directly funding Maoist terror.
Having eliminated or terrorised local politicians, it was only logical for the Maoists to begin targeting MPs and MLAs. As per a released press statement during the hostage drama of Jhina Hikaka by the Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of CPI (Maoists), all MPs and MLAs of Koraput district are on their hit-list. As per a member of parliament of the Congress party from Odisha, about 70 MLAs and 10 MPs are under constant Maoist threats. This constitutes half the elected members from the state, the total number of MPs being 21 and MLAs 149.
The Maoists have spread their influence in 24 of the 30 districts in the state. This is a growing phenomenon in the entire Red Corridor spanning Andhra, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar. During elections, in most Maoist-affected areas, there is no polling after 3.00 pm notwithstanding the large presence of para-military and police personnel. Odisha is now serving as the pivot for the political subversion of India by the Maoists.
It was rather very intrepid of a Union minister to visit the worst Maoist-affected areas in Jharkhand (Latehar District) on a motorcycle during this period of heightened threat. Two months ago, the minister had visited Gadchiroli, a Maoist stronghold in Maharastra. His visit was answered by the Maoists three days later by way of a mineblast in which 12 CRPF personnel were killed. The minister had after all visited the area with the agenda of development!
And so did Vinil Krishna, the collector of Malkangiri, who was abducted by the Maoists in February 2011. It is another matter that consequent to his release he had no qualms in allowing himself to be garlanded like a war hero. He now serves as the private secretary to the Union minister. His appointment, if some press reports are to be believed, was recommended by “professional interlocutors”, who offer their services whenever there is a hostage crisis involving the Maoists. The Congress party in Odisha had dubbed the abduction of Krishna as a ‘well-planned drama’ and had demanded a CBI probe. Where does the truth lie? I leave it for the readers to decide.
In February 2012, the Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda confessed that it was the Maoists who indeed killed Odisha MLA Jagbandhu Majhi in September 2011 and Swami Laxmananda Saraswati in 2007. The killing of the latter was motivated by the religious discourse in Maoist terror that has pervaded Kandhamal district. It is intriguing, rather revealing, that the two Italians chose to travel to Kandhamal area ignoring the travel advisory of the Italian government and warnings by the Indian government.
One of the Italians, Paolo Bosusco, had visited the area several times before and enjoyed the hospitality of the Maoists. His being taken hostage was a staged drama to humble the Indian state. Paolo is a member of an Italy based Ultra-Leftist organisation, Party of Committees to Support Resistance for Communism (CARC). In December 2011, the Maoist Communist Party of Manipur in a press release had acknowledged its association and support of some foreign based ultra-leftist outfits. They are: Communist Party of Philippines, Association for Proletarian Solidarity, Italy (ASP), Maoist Communist Party of France, Revolutionary Communist Party Canada (PCR – RCP), and Party of the Committees to Support Resistance for Communism (CARC), Italy. Some of the western countries had played a very dubious role in fanning Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in Nepal to facilitate religious conversion. Kandhamal district of Odisha suffers from the same paradigm. Nepal’s example should not be lost out on India.
As far as military prowess of the Maoists goes, there is evidence of AK-47s being supplied by the United Wa Army in Myanmar. The AK-47 manufacturing facility has been provided by China to the said insurgent outfit. The Maoist-ISI-LeT-militant groups nexus in Kashmir and the North-East is fairly well established. The Chinese, according to a national television channel, have also begun to supply sophisticated signal equipment with encryption capabilities to the Maoists.
The war is on. In this war the adversary has a deadly cocktail of ideology, foreign support, religious agenda, armed cadres, criminal financing and terror. It would be anti-national to treat it as a law and order problem. The assault is now on Indian democracy and the unity of India. Let us unite and fight because now in question is the very air-of-freedom that we are breathing.
(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a guest blogger for Canary Trap. This post was first published on Firstpost on May 3, 2012)