The Maoists continue to advance their violent campaign to capture political power through armed revolution. In the current year, till October 31, 571 lives have been lost in Maoist violence. Another 12, including two civilians and 10 personnel of the Mizo Battalion, were killed in an ambush on November 29 near Konta in Chhattisgarh. Correspondingly, the state response has been inadequate in containing the Maoists’ campaign and their influence. Strikingly various authorities continue to hold a widely divergent perception of the spatial spread of the Maoist movement. For example, replying to an unstarred question number 320 in the Rajya Sabha, on November 21, 2007, Minister of State (MoS) for Home Affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal said 91 districts in 11 States were affected by Maoist violence. On the other hand, the former Governor of Chhattisgarh, Lt Gen KM Seth said in an interview to a website a few months back: “I would like to share that currently from the figures I have been able to obtain, 256 districts have been declared as [N]axalite affected districts…” The MHA, one can reason, would like to underplay the spatial spread of the Maoists and one can equally argue that the Minister concerned was speaking merely of the number of districts in which Maoist violence was reported, and not of those in which the rebels have an influence –– intense to marginal. However, such variance in the figures is not only odd but misleading and explains the lack of a concerted approach to resolve the violence.
The MoS also said in his response that 11 States were Maoist affected. On can recall the statement of the then Cabinet Secretary, BK Chaturvedi, who while speaking at the annual Conference of Chief Secretaries, in New Delhi, on April 20 said that a total of 182 districts across 16 States were affected to varying degree. Facts and figures yet again collide. Of course the CPI (Maoists) would like to maintain that their influence is widespread, and their propaganda machine leaves no stone unturned in doing so. For example, Sonu –– who earlier used the alias Bhupathi –– whose actual name is Mallojula Venugopal and is the in-charge of the Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee (DKSZC) said in an interview published in People’s March, a Maoist mouthpiece, in July 2007: “… our party has a presence in 17 States…”
Similarly during 2005 and 2006 a series of contradictory statements were made. In March 2005, the Minister of State said in the Lok Sabha that “126 districts in 12 states are affected by Naxal violence/influence in varying degrees”. On the other hand, while replying to the debate on Demands for Grants for his Ministry, the Home Minister said in the Lok Sabha on May 22, 2006: “I have personally collected data... only 50 districts are affected.” The then Home Secretary, VK Duggal had his own version. He insisted on July 3 while addressing probationers at the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, that Maoist activity was noticed in merely “6.5 states to be precise.” Barely a month before the Home Minister’s reply in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister said on April 13, 2006 while inaugurating the second meeting of the Standing Committee of Chief Ministers of Naxalite-affected States, the Naxalite movement “has now spread to over-160 districts”.
The habit of taking a less grave view of the intensity of the Maoist movement is not unique to the UPA government. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, too, held a similar view. In November 2003, speaking at a meeting of the Coordination Committee of Naxalite affected States, the then Home Secretary said Naxalite violence affected 55 districts in 9 states. Less than a year later, in an official note circulated at a meeting of Chief Ministers of Naxalite-affected States on September 21, 2004 the MHA disclosed that 125 districts in 12 states were affected by Naxalite violence. For those who closely watch the Maoist movement, and are familiar with its trajectory and dynamics, it is strikingly clear that the figures have been botched-up, because the number of affected districts could not have shot up by 70 in 10 months.
In fact, in the absence of any information on the methodology followed by the MHA in determining how a district is classified as affected, or any informed debate on its scientific validity, observers of the Maoist movement outside the government are, thus, at a loss to understand the same.
To keep people ill-informed, bestow upon them the comfort of a sense of courage and confidence, as well as deceive the enemy, is one thing, but getting trapped in one’s own tales of deception is disastrous. It is high time that the MHA, and the various departments, understand the enormity of the situation and squarely addresses the Maoist problem, which the Prime Minister described more than once as the ‘single largest threat’ to India’s internal security.