Just a month ago, the main threat to the peaceful conduct of the general election appeared to be from terrorists from across the border in Pakistan. With the conclusion of the first phase of elections, it is clear the enemy has sprung from within: terrorists of ultra-Left, Maoist, ideology.
On the first day of polling, the insurgents killed 18 persons in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa. Of these, 11 were security personnel. No one died at the hands of any terrorist of jihadi persuasion.
This has, once again, raised the question: Has the threat from Maoists been underplayed? Is underdevelopment really an issue behind this sort of violence?
For any state with limited security resources, least of all a country of subcontinental dimensions such as India, there are many simultaneous and pressing demands on this count. The Election Commission’s conduct of polling in Maoist-infested states all in one go points to awareness about the problem.
EC’s awareness is, however, an administrator’s awareness: It is the politicians who are unaware, or pretend to be unaware, of the problem. The poor infrastructure for security forces in these violence-marred states shows that clearly. India’s attention as a whole is focused on jihadi violence. As a result, the government wants to be seen as doing something on that front. Maoist violence is restricted to poverty-afflicted districts that do not, usually, attract media attention. As a result, it is safe for politicians to ignore this problem.
Another question that is often raised is whether the lack of development is the cause for ultra-Left violence in these areas. Matters are more complicated than what a black or white answer would suggest. There is no doubt that these districts have been left behind in the development race. But equally, Maoists don’t want any development to take place there. Regular demolition of roads, schools, bridges and other infrastructure shows that. It certainly helps perpetuate the myth that the government does not care. As a result, the cause and effect between violence and underdevelopment is not wholly clear. What is clear is that initial neglect by politicians has exacerbated the problem in the long run.
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