Dialogue  October - December 2005 , Volume 7  No. 2

Implications of Jehanabad Raid by Naxalites

J.N. Roy

The raid of Jehanabad district hqrs by about 1000 armed Naxalites of Communist Party of India ( Maoist) on November 13, 2005 has more serious implications than has been appreciated so far. In the incident, the Naxalites kept the Police Lines under fire, exploded bombs near the strategic centres in the city and had the run of the district jail for several hours which was their main target. It led to the escape of over 340 prisoners including prominent Naxalite leader Ajay Kanu and few other Naxalite prisoners. Besides, the rebels also killed two prominent leaders and abducted number of members of the Ranvir Sena and later executed some of them. However, the Naxalites did not take large number of arms as it did not seem to be their main objective. About eight fire-arms are reported to have been lost. While the exact number of Naxalites involved in the incident varies from 200 to 1000, what is not in dispute is the efficient execution of the plans and mobilisation of cadres from other states.
    The media reports and discussions have so far tended to concentrate more on the growing clout of the Naxalites (125 districts in 13 states) in various states of the country with differing levels of the Naxalite subversion in them. The Jehanabad attack also had Naxalite experts discussing about the stage of the growth of Naxalism and their clout including whether it has reached the “mobile warfare stage” or “guerilla warfare stage”etc. These analyses also detail that following the merger of the PWG and MCC into Communist Party of India (Maoist), about 14 months back has witnessed the growing militarisation and central control of the Naxalite movement in the country. These observations are backed by some of the recent Naxalite actions in the states where they have greater control. The most prominent would include: 

(a)   A raid on February 6, 2004 by over 200 Naxalites of the district hqurs of Koraput ( Orissa ) in 
                which from district armoury they took away 500 weapons and considerable amount of ammunition;
(b)   On January 5, 2005, they killed K.C Surender Babu, SP Munger (Bihar);
(c)   On June 23, 2005, over 200 Naxalites attacked Madhuban (East Champaran – Bihar) . Their main 
                targets were the Police Station and Block Office where they killed five policemen/ Home Guards 
                and looted arms;
(d)   On September 3, 2005, in a mine blast in Dantewara (Chhatisgarh) , they killed 24 CRPF 
                personnel; and
(e)   Again on November 11, 2005, over 300 Naxalites attacked Home Guard training centre in Giridih 
                (Jhgarkhand) and looted 185 weapons and over 25,000 rounds of ammunition.
This only underscores the spread, their growing clout and confidence and failure of politico-administrative response of the state governments. The Naxalite experts have also discovered that the above mentioned various Naxalite raids culminating into Jehanabad raid highlights the levels of militarisation of Maoists and that they have support of non-cadre population in these areas without whose support such large raids with impunity any retaliation could be possible. It implies that in the affected districts, people either for fear or love are either supportive or are neutral towards Naxalite actions. Barring a few base areas etc. this cannot possible be true.  
    The above mentioned examples also underline their tactical approach from the central military command to upgrade their level of operations. However, Jahanabad is a special case for several reasons. Nobody has looked at the incident at Jehanabad and the previous incidents mentioned above from the angle of administration and governance. In simple terms, for the first time since Independence, the district hqrs of a state had been attacked and laid seige by nearly 1000 men for several hours who successfully executed their objective and then disappeared in the thin air. The administrative response before, during the raid and after the raid, is not worth mentioning. After all, over 1000 armed men cannot appear out of nothing and then disappear. Evidently, Jehanabad district would have some semblance of administrative structure not only at the district hqrs but also in the interior including police station, tehsils, blocks etc manned by thousands of government employees.  
    The most disquieting feature of the Jehanabad incident is that nobody is asking any question about the state government, about the district administration and its overall response. Excuses are4 being found to rationalise things by taking recourse to deployment of forces from Jehanabad for election duties etc. It only reflects the depths to which the governance and administration has sunk in Bihar and in other states like Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa. Not one political entity in Bihar or elsewhere has demanded explanation from the state government as to how it had responded during the raid and after it. Beyond suspending SP Jehanabad which led to a mini-revolt by the policemen themselves, the attitude of the district and the state administration was patting its back for the return of some of the escapees from the jail. Mention it to the district administrators of the past and they would have hung their heads in shame if this had happened in the districts when they were district magistrates or district superintendents of police . Present occupants are unfazed and it describes it all.
    It would appear that the spread and clout of the Naxalites in the affected districts is in direct proportion to the decline of the administration and governance in the affected areas. In Andhra Pradesh, despite everything, the government and police response has been very visible. Chhatisgarh appears to be waking up but in the rest of the states the political and administrative response has been dismal. The main problem is that over the years the regional and caste-based political parties in power, have subverted the district administration to an extent where the accountability and responsibility for governance has been totally diffused. The chief Secretaries , the Home Secretaries and DGPs are there only to retionalise, issue statements and do the cover up. They are neither accountable nor responsible. The political parties are themselves party to the subversion of rule of law. They have used the subterfuge of “social justice” to subvert the rule of law and fair and just governance. While talking of social justice they are actually pursuing “caste and family justice” and encouraging divisive forces in the society. Steep decline in governance in U.P. and Bihar is the direct result of this –where national parties have been pushed progressively to the sidelines while the4 phase of “social engineering “ in politics predominates. Pursuit of “power” and subsequent benefits is the sole objective of the present day governance. It is manifest in the joint front of political parties, legislators and cutting edge level administrators to subvert and strangulate the Panchayati Raj institutions, particularly in the Northern states, as these militate against their levers of power, privilege and patronage and empowers the weak and vulnerable . Any wonder that Naxal ranks are swelling.
    In fact, both the political parties and the bureaucracy have much to answer but that will happen only when upright and concerned people start asking questions. Everybody finds very easy to indulge into semantics and discussions on the ideology and spread of Naxalism but no one questions the effectiveness and credibility of the ruling parties and their administration . Unless these questions are asked, the current phase of Naxalite movement which is more ‘grievance driven’ than ‘ideology driven’ can be resisted successfully. The current phase of sham ‘social justice’ slogan of power brokers is driving the people on margins of the society further to depths of despair. Forest and other tribals and vulnerable do not see any semblance of justice, fair play and transparency in the governance or place for themselves in the sun. Sectional , caste and regional interests are pushing them more to the margins. Naxals are feeding on the grievances of the vulnerable and weak which is the result of present day power driven political culture.  
    The question of governance in its various dimensions is at the heart of the problem and nobody seems to be interested in discussing it is inconvenient to the political parties in power and the administrators.
    The challenge to the growing Naxal menace lies in improving governance with justice and fair play . Most of the regional and caste-based political parties are, meanwhile, busy in subverting these very concepts of governance. Hence to expect them to resolve the problem on their own is indulging in delusions and illusions. As Albert Einstein has said, “Problems…cannot be solved by level of thinking that created them”. It describes in a way the present political and administrative response with the growing Naxalite threat in the country. Those who are responsible for creating conditions for their spread cannot be expected to either resolve it or combat it. They are progressively subverting the administrative sinews of the country for their parochial and narrow interests. This is the main message and implication of Jehanabad raid and unless grasped quickly and in time, it is not possible to fashion a credible response. Rhetoric is no substitute for hard nosed action.

Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

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