India’s security forces have been successful in curtailing violence in the Left Wing Extremist (LWE) affected zone in Central India in the past one and a half decades. The counter LWE model employed has been briefly described as CHD or Clear, hold and develop.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Mr Bhupesh Bhagel has added incorporation of the local tribal through confidence building measures by the state as an additional element for success. The Naxals have in the past exploited or deliberately created alienation in the local population thus gaining their support. Weaning away the tribal from this influence was thus important.
In an interview with the Outlook the Chief Minister states, “When I took over as the Chief Minister, I held a meeting with the state officials and asked them about the policies to get rid of the Naxal problem. Everyone said that ‘bullets-for-bullets’ has been our strategy”.
He claims to have assessed that this strategy may be able to bring down the violence but not eliminate Naxalism. Thus he said, “With such a policy, I said, we would never be able to deal with the Naxal problem. I said, if we want to get rid of the Naxal problem, we have to establish dialogue with the tribals, take them into confidence, work for their development and give them security”.
The State government thereafter integrated the tribal into the economy by redistributing land to the tribal and buying their minor produce to improve their economic condition.
“Our government distributed forest rights pattas to the tribals. We bought minor forest produce products from them. We became the first government to return their land. We returned 4,200 acres of land to 1,700 farmers which were earlier given to Tata industries. It helped increase the income of the tribals and improved their financial condition considerably. Such steps helped instil their faith in the government,” Baghel told the Outlook.
With such trust building the menace was overcome. “The government and the tribal society forged friendly relations between them. That is the reason why the Naxal problem gradually
decreased in the state,” the CM highlighted.
Troop saturation was the method employed by the Central Government to first assume tight control of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and then sustain the same.
Attempts are apparently being made to do the same in Naxal affected districts as well by establishing company operating posts or COPs in the Naxal heartland in Central India.
Operations for the establishment of new COPs and to neutralize the Maoists in large groups are being carried out.
Chhattisgarh continues to be the state with maximum incidents of violence in 2022 which have in fact increased from 263 in 2019 to 279 in 2022 till 30 November.
14 districts are in receipt of SRE funds and Bastar, Bijapur, Dantewada, Kanker, Kondagaon, Narayanpur and Sukma could be seen as the most severely impacted.
Apart from launch of securiyt operations in the CHD mode, Mr Baghel has highlighted the importance of building trust with the locals to gain their support and reduce Naxal influence.