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Disrupting Life and Economy: The Maoist way

Dr. P. V. Ramana was Research Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi. Click here for detail profile.
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  • May 31, 2012

    Naxalites of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), or Maoists, have issued a call for a week-long protest in the Dandakaranya forests (Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee [DKSZC] area) beginning June 1, 2012 and a day-long general shut-down (chakka jam) on June 7. In a statement signed by Gudsa Unsendi, spokesperson of the DKSZC, the rebels said that the protest week was meant to chiefly air two demands: (a) halt to Operation Green Hunt, which, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) holds was never launched; and (b) wind-up the Indian Army’s training camp in Bastar and withdraw troops from there.

    During the protest week the Maoists plan to hold public meetings, stage demonstrations, take out rallies and organise road blocks. It is not unusual for the Maoists to hold protest weeks/days. Every year, they have routinely been giving such calls on January 26 (Republic Day), August 15 (Independence Day), and December 6 (day of destruction of the Babri Masjid).

    Moreover, they also mark some other days/weeks that are significant to their outfit. These include: International Women’s Day (March 8); Day of martyrdom of Bhagat Singh (March 23); International Lenin Day (April 22); Martyr’s memorial week and death anniversary of Charu Majumdar (July 28 to August 3); Founding Day (September 21); and PLGA founding week (December 2 to 8).

    During an interview conducted in April 2009, a senior IPS officer from Bihar told this author that “The Maoists give bandh (general shut down) calls on these days and several violent incidents occur on these days. They also give similar calls on the arrest of their important cadres and attempt to damage public property.” Certainly, the destruction of public property is not limited to these days alone and happens the year round.

    Railways, telephone exchanges and towers, school buildings, and forest roads and culverts have borne the brunt of the destruction campaign of the Maoists. As the following Table illustrates, during the past five years and four months, 207 school buildings have been blasted by the Maoists across the country, 590 forest roads and culverts have been blown-up and 228 telephone exchanges and towers destroyed. At the same time, railway property, including engines, wagons, tracks and stations have fallen victim to the Maoists’ mindless destruction on 208 occasions. Moreover, 76 Panchayat buildings have been blown-up by the rebels.

    Table: Infrastructure Attacks by CPI (Maoist), 2007-2012
      2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Total
    Economic Targets 8 5 17 24 18 1 73
    Railways 47 27 46 54 31 3 208
    Telephone Exchange/Tower 6 46 67 45 51 13 228
    Power Plants 3 1 2 3 0 0 9
    Mining 6 6 3 9 6 0 30
    Transmission poles/lines 10 24 7 2 3 0 46
    Panchayat Buildings 4 7 23 31 10 1 76
    School Buildings 43 25 71 39 27 2 207
    Forest Roads, Culverts, etc 63 41 126 158 147 55 590
    Total 190 182 362 365 293 75 1467

    Note: Data till April 24, 2012
    Source: Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi

    Chart: Maoists’ Infrastructure Attacks by Category, 2007-2012

    Note: Data till April 24, 2012
    Source: Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi

    The destruction of each of these targets has certain significance and clearly demonstrates the Maoists’ sinister designs and their game-plan. This fits-in quite well with the ideology of the rebels and their ultimate objective of capturing/seizing state/political power through violence.

    Panchayats are institutions of the state and represent democratic governance at the grassroots-level. The Maoists have avowedly held that parliamentary democracy is a sham and have consistently stayed away from participating in elections at all levels. By blasting Panchayat buildings (offices) the Maoists seem to be conveying the message that they are challenging Indian democracy and in its institutions.

    Further, the Maoists have blasted telephone exchanges and destroyed telecommunication towers. The objective here seems to be to paralyse communications among security forces personnel and, thus, hinder their operations.

    Surely, during the forthcoming protest week too, one would witness a certain degree of violence and destruction of public property. Moreover, during the chakka jam, normal life is hampered and commerce and mining activity are hit. In the past, for instance, during a similar general shut down in June 2009, in Jharkhand, the financial loss suffered was Rs. 140 crore.

    Besides, when the Maoists blasted three High Tension towers in Narayanpur district of Bastar on May 31, 2007, “the total loss suffered in Bastar was Rs 2,500 crore,” as Giridhari Nayak, Additional Director General of Police, Chhattisgarh, told this author in an interview in July 2007. On that occasion, the National Mineral Development Corporation’s (NMDC) Bailadila mines—from where high quality iron ore is extracted for export and internal use—incurred a loss of Rs 9 crore per day. The resultant loss was nearly Rs 150 crore. Similarly, work in the privately owned Essar Steels, too, was hit resulting in a loss of Rs 1.5 crore per day. Further, iron ore supplies to Ispat and Visakhapatnam Steel Plant were also affected. That is not all. All industrial activities and an overwhelming part of commercial activities were severely affected, if not came to a grinding halt, in Bastar.

    These repeated acts of targeting infrastructure speak of Maoist intentions: paralyse normal life, sabotage economic activity, dictate terms and allow life and economic activity only on their “terms and conditions.”

    Thus, in future, too, infrastructure and several proposed big industries are vulnerable to potential Maoist attacks. At stake is a proposed investment of Rs 2,639 billion in a slew of steel plants and power projects in Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

    Also, many vital and economic installations and railway assets across the country are equally vulnerable. The threat assumes greater significance in the wake of the Maoists having established a continuous string of presence across the country along both the north-south and east-west axes.

    The Maoists have unambiguously articulated the objective their violent campaign: the destruction of the Indian state. Therefore, the Indian state needs to suitably fashion its response to comprehensively defeat the Maoist challenge.