Calls for Aggressive Offensive to Combat India's Maoist Rebels

  • Maoists menace can’t be solved with a silver bullet: Singh
  • Choking insurgents’ finacial resources should be a priority

Rajnath Singh.

Photographer: Debajyoti Chakraborty/NurPhoto via Getty Images

India must aggressively step up its offensive against left-wing guerrillas in the face of surging casualties in the security forces, the country’s home minister said.

The government must also push forward with developmental works in the Maoist-hit areas, said Rajnath Singh. The rebels don’t want infrastructure development in remote areas because it will provide a "path of economic and social progress to the local people."

“The solution to the left-wing extremism problem is not possible with any silver bullet,” Singh told chief ministers of Maoist-hit states at a meeting in New Delhi on Monday. "Unity of purpose and unity of action are essential for the success of the security operations."

The home ministry convened the meeting to bolster India’s strategy to counter Maoist threats following the deadliest single attack on security forces in seven years in which 25 paramilitary personnel were killed in an ambush in Chhattisgarh last month. The rebels, known in India as Naxalites, regularly clash with police in 10 of India’s 29 states.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has made some gains against the Maoist rebels, with security forces experiencing less casualties in the last three years compared to previous three years up to 2013. Yet Maoist attacks surged again in 2017, with security forces losing 37 people in March and April alone.

Alongside the human cost, the rebel attacks are a setback to government efforts to open up to investment regions which are rich in iron ore, coal, bauxite and manganese.

The Naxalites were named after the West Bengal village of Naxalbari, where demands for land reform coalesced into a radical uprising in 1967 inspired by Mao Zedong.

The insurgents say they are fighting for the rights of poor villagers and tribal communities whose resources are, they argue, being exploited to propel India’s $2 trillion economy with few benefits for local people. They have killed more than 12,000 civilians and security personnel in last two decades.

Police stations, trains and schools have been targets, and the Maoists turned to kidnapping and extortion to fund the rebellion. Rebel groups collect more than 1.4 billion rupees annually through extortion, the government said in May 2016, citing a study of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

Singh said choking the guerrillas’ financial funding should be the most basic strategy to check the influence of Maoists.

"Together with a new strategy and with full force we will counter and achieve victory against left-wing extremism,” he said.

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