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Delhi waiting forAssam Maoists to grow?

POSTED ON 8 FEBRUARY 2014

wasbir hussain
Executive director,
centre for development and peace studies

By the way, the Centre has rejected, for now, the Assam Government’s request to declare nine districts in the State as Maoist or Left–wing Extremism affected. And the reason why New Delhi’s anti–Naxal strategists are reluctant to agree to Assam’s proposal is apparently because the Maoists in the State are not indulging in any significant violence! Simply speaking, it means that the Centre would like to wait for the Maoists in Assam to indulge in large–scale violence after consolidating in a major way.

The Assam government had sent a proposal to the Centre in May 2013 to declare nine districts of the state as Left–wing Extremism affected districts so as to avail of the Union Government’s Integrated Action Plan for development of Naxal–hit areas. The provision comes with each such district getting a special infrastructure development fund of Rs 10 crore per year. The nine districts the Assam Government wants declared as Maoist affected are: Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Golaghat, Sivasagar, Goalpara, Cachar and Karimganj.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the Finance Ministry and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), after having examined the Assam Government’s proposal, have apparently decided not to rush through and declare the nine districts as Maoist affected. The Maoists, they feel, are in a ‘latent phase’ in Assam, have not been engaging in enough violence, and, therefore, they would rather wait and watch.

This view, for a change, has been opposed, and rightly so, by none other than Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, senior Assam Police officials, besides experts from Chattisgarh and other Naxal strongholds. The Chief Minister said this week that Maoists, apart from having a clear nexus with insurgents groups in the North–east, have also established links with the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) as well as ‘Jihadi elements.’ Maoists in Assam having links with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur, the ULFA (Independent), and the NSCN (IM) is now known, but the Chief Minister’s statement that it has forged links with the ISI is a matter of serious concern.

In view of these linkages and the ongoing probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the Maoist–PLA nexus, one would have expected the Centre to wake up from its slumber and take the Maoist issue in Assam seriously. As Chief Minister Gogoi said, “We have been telling the Centre that this (Maoist) menace should be nipped in the bud before it blows out of proportion. But, the Centre is yet to take us seriously in this regard.” Gogoi said the ideologies of the Maoists and the ethnic insurgent groups in the region could be different, but their goal is the same, that of destabilizing India.

At a national seminar this week on the spread of the Maoists to the North–east, the former DGP of Chattisgarh, Vishwa Ranjan, a veteran anti–Naxal strategist, said: “It is extremely difficult to engage in development work once Maoists gain control over an area, and, therefore, it is important to nip Maoist activities in the bud and push a development agenda.” In fact, the Andhra Pradesh model in tackling Naxalism (Andhra has managed to neutralize the Naxals to a great extent) has lessons for the North–east because it comprises a huge development component, aside from an effective police response. “The Andhra model is more than Greyhounds. It encompasses security, political and development response with equal emphasis on the three elements. Because of the development response, the youth in north Telangana, once a Naxalite hotbed, lost interest in revolutionary politics and has become career oriented,” observed Dr P.V. Ramana, an expert with the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

It would be suicidal if the security establishment or the Government as a whole decides to ignore the Maoist spread to Assam and wait for it to strike roots and evolve into more active phases of a guerrilla campaign. As one of the country’s leading security and strategic affairs expert, P. C. Haldar, said, “the presence of Maoists in the Northeast has the potential to create serious strategic security complications.” He urged the security establishment to take the attempts by the Naxals to consolidate themselves in the area seriously while planning a strategy to tackle the red rebels. Haldar, who inaugurated the national seminar, very rightly pointed out that the Maoists’ presence along the Assam–Arunachal Pradesh border has assumed added significance because of the area’s proximity to the international border and the traditional routs that insurgent groups in the Northeast have been using to access its bases in Myanmar.

In view of all this, what Assam now needs is an acknowledgement of the Maoist problem in the State by New Delhi and funds to put into operation a development action plan. Meantime, instead of sitting tight, the Assam Government must formulate and keep such a plan ready.

(courtesy: The Sentinel)