Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Red menace: Maoist growth a calculated strategy

NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister has called them a deadly virus, the biggest threat to the idea of India. And some experts believe that their firepower and influence is growing by the day. Though some former security officials have claimed that the heavily-armed rebels are not as strong as they are believed to be, no one can deny the Maoists' ability to give a strong jolt to the government every now and then.

With more than 500 people falling to their guns every year, the Maoists — who have been active in the tribal belts of the country — are spreading their tentacles across the country in a calculated manner.

The prime minister's appeal to the states to pool in their resources and crush the leftist rebellion have not really yielded any results so far. The state police forces are ill-equipped, poorly-trained and lack motivation to take on the highly organised insurgents. And the Union home ministry's plan to tackle this problem by helping the states raise 35 India Reserve Battalions (IRB) to crush the rebels is still at a nascent stage.

But what is really worrying the government is the speed at which the Maoists have been growing. No longer limited to the dense jungles in the heart of India, the rebels have moved their operations to even states like UP and Goa. And they are following a well-planned strategy.

Instead of carrying out a recruitment drive, Maoist leaders wander through the remotest villages, talking to people. In areas where the government has hardly any presence, the Maoists help the villagers in constructing irrigation canals. They also educate the villagers against the problems faced by them.

This makes an impact. And, through this process, they become a part of the village. Once inside a village, the extremists offer instance justice for internal problems like theft, cheating, vandalism, and land disputes in the area, drawing villagers closer to them. It is at this stage that the villagers develop a trust in them and are ready to protect the Maoists from the police. Then some boys join the red army.

With vast areas of the country, particularly the tribal belts of Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, trapped in poverty and neglected by the government, most of the times it's not a problem for the rebels to walk into a village, raise a few slogans and pick up some young boys who are ready to fire a gun for a cause.

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