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Fighting left extremism
Maoist influence abating is good news for those who believe in non-violence and democracy
Identified as the “single biggest security threat to the nation” not so long ago, Maoist/Naxalite terrorism, known as Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in officialise, is in retreat. Figures released by the Union home ministry show that of the 74 districts in which LWE influence and activity was significant or dominant in 2014, as many as 44 districts across the country are today no longer hostage to ultraleft terror, intimidation and violence. The Maoists have been confined to the 30 core districts in India which are the worst-hit and where the battle against left terror continues. A multi-pronged strategy put in place by the Government post 2014, which has integrated security and development-related measures, has been cited as the main reason for this geographical shrinking of the LWE network. Zero tolerance for violence coupled with a massive infrastructure and development push and easing access to public services are the focus areas, the Government has said. Well done.
We believe that India must see itself as a state in the classical Weberian sense which necessarily means that the state and its instrumentalities have a monopoly over violence, provided the state in question is a democratic one and subject to rule of law. For all the weaknesses the post-1947 Indian state has exhibited in the latter two departments and the humungous room for improvement on both counts, there can never, ever, be any compromise against those who bear arms against the state and its sovereign which is the people of India. Which is why this Government and the internal security apparatus it has honed over the past four years, as opposed to previous administrations which also claimed to have followed a similar approach, deserves some credit for saying up front that the first rule in the fight against Maoists has to be zero tolerance for violence by non-state actors. It is also for those who lend overt support to left ultras or, by their silence, acquiesce in providing legitimacy to these extremists, to think about what they are doing. Such actions may help in calming individual consciences given the gross inequalities we see all around us, but we can all do our bit to fight the good fight non-violently and peaceably. Under no circumstances should our bleeding hearts be manipulated to enlist in a cause of the Naxalite kind. India has suffered in the past, when idealistic young men and women became cannon fodder in the name of an ideology which motivates those who in the name of social justice, economic equity and revolutionary ideals have established a Mafiosi style mini-state. It cannot afford a repeat of those dark days.
Spare a thought also for the deprived and marginalised communities, many of them tribal, across the swathe of India where LWE is extant. The narrative of their being caught between the rapaciousness of local oppressors, the excesses of the security forces and the violence unleashed by the Maoists must be countered by getting responsive administrations to step in to curb exploitation, giving the forces a free hand within the parameters of well-defined SOPs for combat situations in civilian areas, and by putting down violence by armed extremists with disproportionate force. The cardinal rule remains: There is no equivalence between the actions of the state in the national interest and on behalf of the citizens of India and non-state actors however noble may be their professed aim.
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