Fight a guerrilla like a guerrilla

  • 30/10/2007

a primitive peasant rebellion is not quite in keeping with the modern India with its soaring Sensex, extravagant malls and industrious call centres. A ragtag militia of rabble-rousers mouthing Marx and Mao and demanding land rights seems horribly antediluvian in times of Bollywood dreams and it ambitions. A hit-and-run force should be little match against state power. But there is no doubt that Naxalism has made the Indian state more than nervous. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has quite a few times in the recent past talked of Naxalism as the "greatest security threat faced by the country'.

It is a serious admission, more so in times when the country's security establishment has been forced to fight militants with far greater wherewithal. Serious problems demand serious solutions. In Chhattisgarh, the state government felt that the ponderous police force needed to get its act together to take on the nimble Naxalites of Dantewada. An ex-army officer was called and a Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College came up in a remote hamlet in the state. Select officers were trained in fighting guerrillas like guerrillas.

Not an altogether unwelcome development. After all, where is the harm if a sloppy bunch of security men are turned into fleet-footed fighters who can take on insurgents on their own terrain. The counter-terrorism college did just that. And then there was the counter-insurgency civilian militia, the Salwa Judum, to back the security forces.

But then there was a spoiler. The counter-terrorism college, it transpired, had come up in contravention of forest laws. But then let's not lose sight of the gravity of the situation. Forestland has been parcelled away at other places as well, for mines, dams and other developmental activities. So the contravention did not appear too serious to the state; it turned a blind eye to the protestations of a few conscientious officials.

It is a matter of no little irony that with the newly spruced-up police force not having been much help and Salwa Judum thoroughly discredited, the call is now for more initiatives by way of development. Of course, that will mean more land alienation for the tribal people of Dantewada. It remains to be seen whether the acquisition of land will violate procedures as blatantly as the college is said to have done.