At a time when Kashmir is on the boil and even North East is in the news for wrong reasons, there is sufficient reason to take heart from what is happening in the Naxal infested region of the country. Remember it was not many years ago when the then Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh had described Naxal related terror as the biggest internal security threat confronting India. As a nation we can today take heart from the fact that the country has traversed a fair distance, and in the right direction, from that assessment of gloom and doom.
Though the activities of left wing Maoists still make the odd headline and their threat is far from over, it can be said with a degree of certainty that –other than some pockets of Chattisgarh—red terror is on the retreat.
In states like Orissa, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Bihar, Naxal movement has been considerably weakened as a result of some concerted and determined effort by security forces which has been doggedly backed up by the development initiatives launched and implemented by the Centre as well as state governments.
The biggest indicator of how the tide is turning can be seen from how the number of fatalities has seen a sharp decline in the last decade. The number of fatal incidents involving both security personnel and civilians had crossed 1000 in 2010. This figure has shown a steady decline since 2012 when this figure came down to 415. In 2013 and 2014 this number came down to 397 and 310 respectively before touching its lowest at 230 in 2015. Last year (2018) this figure was 240, a fourth of the number of fatalities recorded in 2010.
The number of Naxal related incidents have also come down to a third of its peak recorded in 2009 when 2258 such incidents were recorded. In 2018 this number was down to 833. The number of security forces killed in 2009 was 317. Last year this figure was down to 67. And these figures are not any flash in the pan statistics; it is a steady trend. In 2012 the number of security personnel killed was down to 114, the next year it was 115 , then 88 before touching its lowest of 59 in 2015. The next two years (2016 & 2017) the number was 65 and 75 respectively.
One of the big problems which local police faced vis a vis Naxalites were the incidents of arms snatching which not only beefed up the arsenal of Maoists but also had a demoralising effect on the security forces. Against 256 recorded incidents of arms snatching in 2010, the number has come down to 18, 3, 34 and 19 respectively in the last four years. Instances of attacks on police and other security forces have also reduced by more than half in the last decade. Last year 100 such instances were recorded against the 249 such cases reported in 2009.
The number of left wing extremists killed by security forces was 225 in 2018 against 220 ten years ago in 2009. However, the security forces and local governments have notched up a major success when one sees the rise in number of left wing extremists surrendering before the authorities. Against the 150 left wing ultras who surrendered in 2009, the number of left wing extremists who surrendered last year went up more than four-fold with 644 Naxals choosing to lay down arms. There are reasons for this spurt in the number of ultras opting to surrender. The consistent pressure and the heat generated by the security forces is of course one reason. But equally important is the fact that a number of Maoists –who once joined the movement fired by ideology and idealism—are increasingly realizing how the movement has lost its moorings and has become more of an exploitation and extortion racket aimed to benefit a few top Naxal leaders.
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These signs are heartening and encouraging. But the pressure needs to be sustained, both on development and security front. For the authorities –while they can rightfully pat themselves on their back for their success –there just cannot be any lowering of the guard. Any slip and laxity on their part will be used by the left wing extremists to regroup and this hard earned advantage will be lost.