Naxalism: Thriving on the State VS Nation Divide – Manish Parashar

The State Govt.’s are wary of this fact and today no matter how big the unrest, they try to downplay it in an apparently selfish bid to protect their domain of influence.

Federalism broadly can be defined as an equitable sharing of power between the Central Govt. and the State Govt.’s. However, for a diverse country like India even this definition falls short of the actual ground rules. The Constitution has enshrined that India is a federal, democratic republic. As per the 7th Schedule of the Constitution the powers of the Union and the States have been broadly divided in to the State List, The Union List and The Concurrent List. Of late, there has been a growing apprehension among the States about the Center transgressing upon their coveted State list powers and trying to impose its weight upon them.

While many differences have persisted in the 21stcentury, defense inter-alia, remains a contentious bone between the Center and the State. While it is the prerogative of the State to maintain internal law & order with the help of the Police machinery and that of the Center to safeguard National security, times have changed a lot and both these aspects have become inexorably intertwined to pose a situation where we see the Center and the State increasingly locking horns over this issue.

The State Govt.’s are wary of this fact and today no matter how big the unrest, they try to downplay it in an apparently selfish bid to protect their domain of influence.

The Center has tried, and is still trying to divest defense powers from the State machinery to tackle with the law & order situation in the country. It implemented the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to bring about swift response to any acts of internal aggression. But time has exemplified that this act has done more harm than good in the areas where it was enforced. The State Govt.’s are wary of this fact and today no matter how big the unrest, they try to downplay it in an apparently selfish bid to protect their domain of influence.

Perhaps that is what crippling the Center in tackling the Naxal problem head-long. Stretching from Tamil Nadu & Karnataka in the South to Bihar, Nepal and even parts of the North-East, Naxalism today can be safely assumed to a bigger problem than the militancy in Punjab that was there some decades ago. There are reports that they rule their parts with their own form of self-government and sets of rules. It is true that the administration is at fault for neglecting the indigenous adivasis for long, exploiting their resources and displacing them in the thousands for coal mining, while at the same time providing little or no succor to them in the name of infrastructural development. The growing unrest among them gave birth to this left-wing extremism which, as the Home Minster has rightly pointed out, is the biggest internal security problem for India today. Yet we see a sort of protectionist attitude of the State Govt.’s while asking for Central help in controlling this menace.

There might be some truth in the State Govt.’s stand, after all, there are own brethren who have been spoon-fed an ample dose of left-wing Marxist ideologies to take up arms and ‘fight’ for their causes. In areas of no education and little development, any idea that promises to help them out of their ills will automatically grasp the minds of the population. If the State Govt.’s wishes so, at any point this malady can be wiped out by the force of Army muscle and perhaps a bit of help from the Air Force too. The Center might also be keen to take care of this issue once and for all. Probably the State Govt.’s know the side-effects of this treatment also. India had used the Air Force only once to quell internal disturbances in Mizoram decades ago. And the distrust it had created among the people still persists there even after so many years have passed. The Army also has a similar story to tell, albeit maybe a better one.

After all, the Constitution has clearly mentioned that it will be the State Govt.’s discretion to deploy armed forces in their states which will be under the command of the IGP’s and DSP’s. Unless there is President’s Rule imposed in that area, the Center’s hands are all but tied. It has nevertheless tried time and again to assert its role by deploying Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel to ‘assist’ the State Govt.’s. The CRPF is a defensive force lacking the teeth of the Army to deal with Counter-insurgency operations. Even its elite unit COBRA has come under flak for its poor success rate. Moreover, a firm grip by the State Govt.’s means that whatever little power they have, they are to use it only at the latter’s directive. Indeed, a report states that CRPF forces in Naxal areas are being ordered to only “shoot when being shot” effectively curtailing their pursuit of the militants who use the dense foliage to carry out an attack and then retreat back to their jungle bases.

The BJP, ever opposing to anything and everything like a true “opposition”, has criticized the Center for trampling on the rights of the States and thus polluting the ‘federal dharma’. A backing by the BJP has further buoyed the State Govt.’s in pursuing a policy of caution in all incentives taken up by the Center to ease the crises. With the Red Rash spreading throughout the length and breadth of India and taking an epidemic form, it is time for the parties involved to end their squabble and put a decisive end to Naxalism, simultaneously coupling it up with immediate infrastructural developments to improve the standards of the neglected and downtrodden adivasis.

This is a Guest Post by Manish Parashar. He is a B.E. Mechanical Engineering student at the Manipal Institute of Technolgy, Manipal.
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  • sai krishna

    The Indian constitution came into being through a process which made a strong unitary basis unavoidable. The need for national unity at that precarious time warranted this unitary basis….but the tragedy is that we haven’t been able to bring about an evolution of the constitution through a process of debate. The zeitgeist demands a devolution of power and federalism is an important step in that direction. To treat naxalism as a principally law and order problem is a grave mistake. Left wing extremism is just the violent end of a spectrum of protests against an idea of progress being stuffed down people’s throats without proper consultation, also it is impossible to treat all naxals as belonging to a similar entity because the fact is local factors influence these resistance movements heavily. For example the resurgent naxalism in telangana is inextricably linked to the agitation for a separate state, so to treat them as a monolithic security threats would be foolish.