What do these people want? That is the standard question asked whenever we hear about Maoists ambushing yet another bunch of paramilitary troopers in some remote area deep in the country’s hinterland. Simply put, the Maoists or Naxals are an insurgent communist group which wants to overthrow the Indian government through a people’s war. More than a decade ago, the then PM Manmohan Singh described the Naxal movement as India’s single biggest internal security challenge, and went on to add that the “deprived and alienated sections of the population” formed the backbone of the movement.
While the original movement may have been sparked by deep resentment over inequality among the backwards and tribals, the fact these outfits have access to sophisticated weapons and intelligence has raised questions about the movement’s sources of funding. Half-hearted attempts to address the issue using money and force has had limited impact, and the decades-long conflict has cost thousands of lives. The situation is compounded by the strong resistance of Maoist leaders to development efforts in the region. Loath to use the military to fight its own people, the governments have used paramilitary forces with acronymns like CRPF, BSF, OCTOPUS, COBRA and GREYHOUNDS to combat the menace, again with limited effect.
The Maoists launch regular attacks on security forces. In fact, the latest attack in Chattisgarh in which 12 troopers were killed occurred soon after the CM convened an emergency meeting to take stock of the situation in Bastar where Maoist activity peaks in summer. Both sides make claims about wrongdoings by each other. The prolonged struggle has led to a vicious circle of attacks and counterattacks. This can only be broken if the government continues to aggressively take development to the remote regions and neutralises those who incite violence and war. Until the circle breaks, the chances of a mutually acceptable solution are bleak.