The Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week to allow human rights activist Binayak Sen bail has rightly been praised. As we noted in an editorial last year, his detention by the Chhattisgarh government—on grounds that he had aided Maoist insurgents—only proved counterproductive. But in all the media attention Sen has received, one message seems lost: India is still grasping to find a national strategy against the Maoist insurgency.
A Friday Mint interview with Communist Party of India (Maoist) leader Koteshwar Rao underscores this point. What is worth noting is the Maoists’ ability to galvanize smaller groups with varied aims under one banner. “We support all outfits fighting state-sponsored oppression…because our enemy is common,” Rao says, noting the memoranda of understanding recently signed with the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa), the People’s Liberation Army in Manipur and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland—groups that may share Leftist ideology, but are more concerned about particular regions or ethnicities.
The parallel that immediate ly comes to mind is Al Qaeda: A network that can connect anti-Israeli Palestinian groups with anti-Indian Pakistani ones can unleash international havoc. Defeating it requires international cooperation.
Similarly, a network in India that coalesces grievances in Assam with problems in Andhra Pradesh is a national problem requiring cooperation among states. Yet, India pretends to treat each problem as a regional issue.
This translates into each state developing its own strategy. In Andhra Pradesh, this means that Y.S.R. Reddy’s government enters into talks with insurgents to try to win votes. In Chhattisgarh, it means the state provides arms to a brutal extra-constitutional counter-insurgency movement. Called Salwa Judum, this movement has only exacerbated local grievances, helping the Maoist cause.
This every-state-for-itself approach may well have led to the Binayak Sen controversy: Chhattisgarh responded to the insurgency by limiting various liberties in 2005, including the freedom of the press.
Developing a clear national strategy, then, becomes an urgent task for the new home minister. When India’s internal enemies are united, it cannot afford to do otherwise.
Does India have a national strategy to fight Maoists? Tell us at email@example.com