After the shock over the loss of 75 CRPF jawans died down, India’s collective resolve to crush the Maoists stiffened. This across-the-board feeling has been expressed best (among the articles I have read) by Vir Sanghvai in his article The Maoists Have Left Us With No Choice . Sanghvi rightly says that since the authority of the State has been challenged by the Moaists, they need to be crushed. Sanghvi goes on to say that unfortunately, before the government can work out a process for upliftment of the region, the State’s authority must be reasserted.
Sanghvi also wonders why the Dalits are much more integrated into the national mainstream than the tribals even though the tribals form the majority in two states and have greater political power. This is a very important question for which there are no clear answers. Why are some communities able to benefit from or exploit reservations much better than others? Why do some deprived communities integrate better than others? Why is Arunachal Pradesh so much peaceful than say Manipur or Tripura even though all these states receive the same amount of largesse from the Central government?
However, on one point alone, I don’t really agree with Sanghvi. Sanghvi says that “Our Maoists will be crushed no matter how long it takes the Indian state to do this.” What gives Sanghvi the confidence to say this with such conviction? India has a tried and tested strategy for dealing with insurgency that has been used in almost all the seven north eastern states. This strategy is to flood the troubled region with troops – the army, the BSF and the CRPF – and fight a prolonged fight which will tire the insurgents and force the local population to yearn for peace. Any form of peace. Ultimately the insurgents are forced to the negotiating table. This has worked for Nagaland where a ceasefire has been in place since 1997. The Naga insurgency had started raging even before Nagaland was carved out of Assam in 1963.
But this time it is different for so many reasons. One, the area involved is much larger and the number of deprived people is much higher. It cuts across various states and tribes. Secondly, as India grows economically, the number of Indians willing to join the CRPF, the BSF and the army etc. will dwindle. Even now, the army faces a huge shortage of officers. At present, supply of men (not officers) outstrips demand. However, this will not last for long. Why spend the best years of your life in camps and on frontlines fighting your own countrymen when you have so many other options in a booming India? India just will not be able to fight a low cost thirty years war against the Maoists (and put on hold all developmental work in that region for that period) as it used to do in the past. Finally, if any of India’s neighbours decides to stir the pot a little bit, and we all know that India doesn’t have too many friends in its own neighbourhood, things can get very messy.
I have no doubt that the Maoists cannot give the tribals a better deal than what they are getting from the Indian state even now. However, do the tribals know that?