The killing of 25 CRPF jawans in a ghastly attack by Maoists in Sukma, Chhattisgarh on Monday has raised at least two questions: a) Has government failed in controlling the Maoist menace? b) Are the Maoists too scared of the development push by the Centre and states in their area? The available official data of Ministry of Home Affairs, however, answers only the second question in affirmative.
For years, Maoist sympathisers have argued that underdevelopment, poverty and a sense of denial at the hands of the state are pushing people to Left Wing Extremism (LWE). However, this argument doesn’t stand the test of truth when Maoists target development projects in their area. Even Monday’s attack on CRPF jawans was carried out when the latter were engaged in securing an under-construction road project in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.
At regular intervals, Maoists attack schools, roads, mobile towers, and health centres. While doing so, the Maoists deny poor people their right to participate in the mainstream development process. Following the killing of 75 CRPF jawans by Maoists in 2010 in Dantewada, then Home Minister P Chidambaram had echoed this by saying, Maoists were “anti-poor” and “anti-development”.
“The Naxalites are anti-development and have targeted the very instruments of development – school buildings, roads, telephone towers etc. They know that development will mean the masses, especially poor tribals, wean them away from the grip of Naxalites,” Chidambaram was quoted as saying by ANI in April 2010.
These 25 CRPF jawaans had their children,their homes & their dreams.We have let these soldiers down.Hope we tackle this in the way, it works pic.twitter.com/a1FryYFltI
— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) April 25, 2017
As many as 10 states of the country are considered to be infested by the Maoists, who are also referred to as Left Wing Extremists (LWEs) or Naxals, in varying degrees. These states are: Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
In the last three years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union government has been pursuing a twin strategy to take on the Maoists. This includes a development push in Maoist-hit areas as well as choking off their operations by security forces. While there has been a decrease in the number of deaths and injuries to security forces (and in reverse in case of the Maoists), the government has been trying to push development projects to bring the people engaged or motivated by Maoist ideas to the mainstream.
— PIB India (@PIB_India) April 24, 2017
In December 2016, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had approved the Road Connectivity Project for LWE-affected areas. It paved the way for the construction or up gradation of 5,411.81 km road and 126 bridges/cross drainage works at an estimated cost of Rs 11,724.53 crore.
The Centre is also running Additional Central Assistance for LWE affected districts, which was implemented during the UPA-rule under the Integrated Action Plan since 2010-11. The new scheme covers 88 districts of all LWE-affected states. A PIB release in 2015 said that 1,29,037 projects worth Rs 8149 crore were completed up to February 2, 2015 under the ACA scheme. The government has also launched skill development schemes like ‘Roshni’ and ‘Skill Development’ in 34 Maoist-hit areas.
Hardcore Maoists, who like to hide in jungles, do not appreciate such projects.
For the first question, controlling Maoists is an ongoing process and there has been a considerable progress in this regard since the beginning of 2016. Consider the following data of the Union home ministry.
- As many as 222 Maoists were killed by security forces in 2016 during encounters as well as attacks on the police. The number of Maoists killed in 2016 were highest since 2011. In 2011, the total number of Maoists killed were 99; 74 in 2012; 100 in 2013; 63 in 2014 and 89 in 2015. This year, 44 Maoists were killed until March 31.
- The total numbers of Maoists, or Left Wing Extremists (LWEs), who surrendered in 2016 was also highest since 2011. As many as 1442 LWEs surrendered in 2016. Around 700 of them did so after demonetisation decision was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2016. The decision choked Maoist funding, forcing scores of their cadres to surrender. The number of LWEs surrendering in the previous years were 394 for 2011; 445 for 2012; 282 for 2013; 676 for 2014 and 570 for 2015. In 2017, the number of LWEs who surrendered until March 31 was 327.
- Since 2011, thousands of LWEs have been arrested also — 421 held until March 31, 2017; 1840 in 2016; 1668 in 2015; 1696 in 2014; 1397 in 2013, 1901 in 2012 and 2030 in 2011.
- In contrast to the number of Maoists killed or surrendered, the number of death or injury of security forces in Maoist attacks has decreased since Modi government came to power in May 2014. As many as 65 security forces were martyred in 2016, while this number was 59 in 2015 and 88 in 2014. Between 2011 and 2014, 142 security forces were killed in 2011; 114 in 2012 and 115 in 2013.
- In the first three months of 2017, 32 security forces were killed by LWEs until March 31. With 25 deaths at Sukma on Monday, this number has gone up to 55.
- The number of security forces injured in Maoist attacks has also seen a slight decline in the last three years. In 2011, 177 security forces were injured; 189 in 2012; 170 in 2013; 183 in 2014 but 159 in 2015 and 145 in 2016. The number of security forces injured until March 31, 2017 was 36.
- The number of Maoist incidents has also gone down in the last three years. In 2011, the total number reported Maoists incidents were 1760; 1415 in 2012; 1136 in 2013; 1091 in 2014; 1089 in 2015 and 1048 in 2016.
The above data shows that people are getting disenchanted by the Maoist ideology and hence surrendering. At the same time, government’s development push has scared them, and hence the attacks.
According to a report by The Indian Express, Maoists are against the construction of three roads connecting Jagargunda with Dornapal in east (this was attacked on Monday); Bijapur in west and Kirandul in north. These roads are: first, a 75-m stretch of NH-30 connecting Sukma with Konta. Second, connecting Injeram and Bhejji (this was attacked on March 11 killing 13 CRPF men) and the third, road connecting Dornapal with Jagarguda on NH 30 (this was attacked on Monday). The report says that Maoists control this area and they are against the development projects, which may eventually lead to their extinction from the region.