Development and extremism have been linked to each other in a complex manner. Read here to understand the concept better.
All people are entitled to an improvement in their standard of living with adequate food, clothing, housing, quality education, health, and a dignified way of life.
History has shown us that the lack of these necessities incites people to revolt as they did against the colonial authorities. The lack of development led to extremist means being adopted by the common people to assert their rights.
It is a fact that underdevelopment creates the conditions for insurgency and the spread of extremist ideologies among the people, who become aware that their needs are not being taken care of by the government.
It has been the policy of governments around the world today to emphasize inclusive development, but there are always groups in every state who feel alienated because they feel left out of the developmental efforts.
These perceptions combined with inefficient and corrupt governance create the condition for extremism and militancy to grow. The absence of efforts, misgovernance, and the inability of the system to include the marginalized communities lead to violence and extremism more than the actual lack of development.
In the context of India, left-wing extremism or Naxalism is a prime example of development and extremism, being interrelated.
Under development and left-wing extremism
Left-wing extremism (LWE), or Naxalism is a far-left extremist ideology. It derives its ideas from communism and emphasizes the progress of people’s social and economic lives through armed revolution to create a classless society.
Naxalism had its origins in the town of Naxalbari in West Bengal in 1967 as an agrarian movement. The oppressed peasants inspired by the communist movement raised their voices and arms against the feudal landowners in Naxalbari.
Naxalism originated as a rebellion against the lack of development and poverty at the local level in the rural parts of eastern India. It is also important to understand that emergence of Naxalism is a result of the various fragmentations of communist ideologies in India over time.
Evolution of left-wing extremism
The creation of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in the 1920s consolidated the presence of communist ideology in the country. The communist movements all around the world at that time inspired CPI to use the sentiment in the national movement against the British.
The success of the October Revolution in Russia became a source of inspiration for the nascent communist movement in India.
The agrarian revolution began in West Bengal in 1967 when an extremist breakaway faction of the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM) began the agitation.
In 1969, the CPI formed a new Marxist-Leninist party; CPI-ML. This faction spearheaded acts of violence in the name of ‘class destruction’ began in of states of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh, as well as Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, and Punjab.
In 2004, CPI- Maoist was created which had far-left radicals supporting Maoist ideology. The Naxals followed this ideology which eventually turned violent with the use of arms and ammunition. Initially, the movement had its center in West Bengal. Thereafter, it spread into less developed areas of rural central and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Maoism: Maoism originated in China as a form of Communist theory derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong. It was widely applied as the political and military guiding ideology of the Communist Party of China till 1977-78. It emphasized the advancement of people’s social and economic life by establishing a classless society through the armed revolution. It was rooted in the anti-imperialist struggle and supported the armed revolution to achieve political transformation. Naxalism is based on the principles of Maoism to achieve a similar transformation in India.
Insurgency in Northeast India
Insurgency is another example of development and extremism being related. The partition of India turned the North-East region into a landlocked region and affected it developmentally and economically. Due to this isolation from the mainland, the region remained backward in terms of development and growth.
The isolation of the region, its complex social character of different ethnic tribes, their culture, lack of development, and miscommunications between the central administration soured the relationship between the centre and this region, which led to anger in people in this region.
Due to these complicated issues, people aspired for their autonomy, secessionist movements & strict opposition to outsiders entering their region.
Relation between development and extremism
It has been observed that extremist activities are confined to certain regions only where there is an administrative and developmental vacuum. The government’s growth programs have not trickled down to those regions. Following are the reasons why lack of developmental activities leads to extremist actions:
Discontent among tribes:
- Tribes who rely on forest products for their livelihood were barred from using forest produce under the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980.
- Massive tribal population displacement due to development projects, mining operations, and other factors also led to anger among the tribal community.
- Naxals/Maoists took advantage of these emotions and supplied these vulnerable with weapons and money.
- Unemployment, poverty, a lack of health care, a lack of education and awareness, and a lack of access to electricity, internet connectivity, and communication, were the list of issues that weren’t being addressed by the government in those areas.
- The widening wealth divide between such a backward region and the rest of the country became the fuel for Naxalism to spread like wildfire.
Lack of administration:
- Irregular administration, absence of governance in remote areas, poor implementation, and mishandling of government schemes were causing distress to the people.
- The developmental projects are poorly implemented, feeding onto extremism in the region.
- Social discrimination of vulnerable communities and tribal communities is one of the major reasons leading to extremist activities as the Naxalites provide them with support to fuel the movement.
- Tourism is causing more harm than benefits to the tribal regions of the Naxal belt.
- The advent of foreign influence and commercialization is causing tribal society to disintegrate, resulting in extremist activity.
Counter actions against extremism
The Naxalite movement is largely considered the country’s single greatest threat to its internal security.
Maintenance of law and order is the responsibility of state governments, but the central government has deployed CRPF troops in these areas and they act as support systems for state police.
Centre has also deployed the CoBRA – Commando Battalion for Resolute Actions- elite forces specializing in guerrilla and jungle warfare.
Insurgencies in Jammu and Kashmir and northeast states have been dealt with with the implementation of AFPSA (Armed forces special power act), but the Naxal infested areas are not included in this.
Grey Hound Police: They are an elite commando force of Andhra Pradesh created to combat left-wing extremists. The Force is known for its guerrilla approach and its functioning in the field, which is near similar to that of the Maoists.
Operation Green Hunt: It was the name used by the Indian media to describe the “all-out offensive” by the government of India’s paramilitary forces and the state’s forces against the Naxalites. The operation is believed to have begun in November 2009 along with five states in the Red Corridor.
Salwa Judum: It was described as a People’s movement and meant, “Peace hunt” in the local Gondi tribal dialect. The movement was launched by a few villagers angered by Naxal interference in the local trade of tendu leaves used for making bidis.
- Poorly trained, ill-equipped, and immature, some of the Salwa Judum cadres themselves looted many tribal villages. It resulted in a civil war-like situation in these regions. Later, Supreme Court ruled the movement to be unconstitutional as only the state has the responsibility for maintaining law and order.
A security blueprint to tackle the Maoist threat was prominently featured in the government’s 14-Point Policy and subsequently took the form of a series of security-centric measures to address the growing Maoist movement:
- Modernization of police forces
- Strengthening intelligence networks
- Aiding states in security-related infrastructure
- Deployment of central paramilitary forces
- Special infrastructure scheme
- The launch of the SAMADHAN scheme in May 2017.
- Ban on the CPI (Maoist) and the UAPA Act, 2009
- Strengthening monitoring and coordination mechanisms through a series of steps, including the creation of a Unified Command.
Peace Talks with Maoists and ceasefires
- 2004: Andhra Pradesh government entered into peace talks with the Maoist but ended in no results.
- 2009: Home Minister P. Chidambaram called for ceasefire and peace talks, Maoist first accepted the cease-fire, but within a few hours there was an attack on a paramilitary battalion, which made all expectations of peace with Maoists nonexistent.
Surrender Policy: Naxal-affected states have also announced surrender policies-
- The Jharkhand government offered Rs 50000 to surrendered Naxalites plus a monthly allowance of Rs.2000, one acre of agricultural land, and educational and health benefits to their children.
- The Chhattisgarh government offered up to Rs.3 lakh for weapon surrender.
- The Orissa government announced Rs. 10000 for surrender, Rs.20000 for arms surrender, and Rs 2 lakh of bank loan without interest for two years.
But there is no effective intelligence mechanism to identify Naxal cadres. Often, tribal youths surrender as Naxals after many of them joining the Naxal movement to reap these benefits.
Development and extremism: Current situation
Lives claimed by Naxalism have come down drastically in recent years due to better center-state cooperation hence the areas are seeing better growth and the basic needs of people are being addressed.
General elections are being concluded peacefully and even districts of Bastar and Dantewada which were hotspots of Naxal activity too voted in reasonably good numbers.
This indicates the situation is under control for the time being, but the government cannot be complacent until it is uprooted completely. There are still surprise attacks where that inflict substantial damage on the paramilitary forces. The vigor of the attack suggests that they are not demoralized, but it appears that they are waiting for the right time to raise their head. So the government instead of being reactionary must go after them proactively. But it has a herculean challenge of doing it democratically.
There should be a two-pronged approach to counter it, one at the ideological level and the other at the physical level. In the former case, good governance by the government and delivering good results in fields of Education, Health, and overall standard of living will be instrumental.
Government initiatives for regions affected by extremism
- Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme: This Scheme is being implemented as a sub-scheme of the Umbrella Scheme ‘Modernization of Police Forces’. Under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme, the central Govt. reimburses the State Governments of 10 LWE affected States Security Related Expenditure of 70 districts relating to training and operational needs of security forces, ex-gratia payment to the family of civilians/security forces killed/injured in LWE violence, compensation to Left Wing Extremist cadres who surrendered per the surrender and rehabilitation policy of the concerned State Government, community policing, Security-related infrastructure for village defence committees and publicity materials.
- Special Central Assistance (SCA) for most LWE affected districts: This Scheme was approved in 2017 and is being implemented as a sub-scheme of the Umbrella Scheme ‘Modernization of Police Forces’. The main objective of the Scheme is to fill the critical gaps in Public infrastructure and Services, which are emergent.
- Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS): This Scheme is being implemented as a sub-scheme of the Umbrella Scheme ‘Modernization of Police Forces’. Under the scheme, funds are provided to States for strengthening the Infrastructure related to Security.
- Scheme of Fortified Police stations: The Ministry had sanctioned the construction of 400 Fortified Police Stations in 10 LWE affected States.
- Assistance to Central Agencies for LWE management Scheme: This Scheme is being implemented as a sub-scheme of the Umbrella Scheme ‘Modernization of Police Forces’. Under the Scheme, assistance is provided to Central Agencies (CAPFs/IAF, etc) for strengthening infrastructure and hiring charges for Helicopters.
- Civic Action Programme (CAP): This Scheme is being implemented as a sub-scheme of the Umbrella Scheme ‘Modernization of Police Forces’ to bridge the gaps between Security Forces and local people through personal interaction and bring the human face of SFs before the local population. The Scheme has been very successful in achieving its goal.
- Media Plan: This Scheme is being implemented as a sub-scheme of the Umbrella Scheme ‘Modernization of Police Forces’. The Maoists have been misguiding and luring the innocent tribals/ local population in LWE affected areas by their poor-friendly revolution through petty incentives or by following their coercive strategy. Their false propaganda is targeted against the security forces and the democratic setup. Therefore, the Government is implementing this Scheme in LWE affected areas. Under the scheme activities like Tribal Youth Exchange programs organized by NYKS, radio jingles, documentaries, pamphlets, etc. are being conducted.
- Road Requirement Plan-I (RRP-I) for LWE affected areas: This Scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways for improving road connectivity in 34 LWE affected districts of 8 States i.e. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh
- Road Connectivity Project for LWE affected areas (RCPLWE): The Government approved this scheme in 2016 to further improve road connectivity in LWE affected States. The Ministry of Rural Development is the nodal Ministry for this project.
- LWE Mobile Tower Project: To improve mobile connectivity in the LWE areas, the Government 2014 approved the installation of mobile towers in LWE affected States.
- Aspirational District: The Ministry of Home Affairs has been tasked with the monitoring Aspirational districts program in 35 LWE affected districts.
Development and decline of extremism
- The ideology of revolution has lost its old appeal which is evident in the lack of interest among locals to join the militia.
- An improved performance from the state on the development and governance fronts makes it difficult for the insurgents to grow in the same manner as they managed earlier.
- The Centre initiated the development and good-governance measures denied the insurgents the support of the affected populations.
- The most significant steps taken by the Centre are in terms of enacting a few landmark legislation recognizing the rights of Adivasis to access forest resources and for self-governance- the passage of the Forest Dwellers Act in 2006 despite stiff resistance from environmentalists and NGOs.
- Strengthened security-centric measures to address the growing Maoist movement.
- They have captured more than 7,000 active cadres in the last three years, while an equal number of Maoists have surrendered before authorities in various states.
- Loss of strongholds, the declining appeal of ideology, and leadership crisis, along with improved performance from the affected states on socio-economic fronts, may make it difficult for the insurgency to regain the momentum it once had decades ago.
- The significant improvements in security agencies, particularly the police forces, improved security and intelligence infrastructure, and better command and control systems to keep track of the rebels and their movements also contributed to security.
It is vital to strengthen the state’s protective shield against the multi-faceted exploitation of these populations. The constitutional and civil rights protections related to legislation should be made more effective concerning Schedule castes and scheduled tribes.
Land-related policies should be made more accessible to the vulnerable sections of the agrarian society. The development of beneficial land policies will improve food and livelihood security, and lesser actions of extremism.
The Red corridor has a high number of tribal populations who have serviced inadequately the government. More inclusive schemes and policies for their benefits are needed. Their development is imperative to curbing extremism in the region.
Security of livelihood can be ensured by establishing quality infrastructure, supportive technical services, and efficient market linkages at the village or cluster of village level to promote subsidiary and supported activities in animal husbandry, fisheries, horticulture, sericulture, and poultry.
The state should ensure more development work and its practical implementation on the ground at high priority, which would necessitate a clean, corruption-free, and accountable administration at all levels. As discussed, development and extremism are intricately related and should be addressed through the same lens.
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), 2005, Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, and National Rehabilitation & Resettlement Policy, 2007 are some of the policies that have been enacted and should be monitored for quality implementation.
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is a critical component in ensuring that the poorest of the poor have access to livelihood support and protection.