Maoist violence may be spinning out of control
Mar 7, 2007 - 10:23:00 AM

New Delhi, March 7 - A surge in Maoist violence that killed nearly 750 people, including 520 civilians, in India last year threatens to explode with the brazen killing of Sunil Mahto, MP, during Holi festivities, demonstrating again that the ultra-left radicals have the ability and resources to attack at will.

This has been this year's first high-profile attack by Naxalites, or Indian Maoists. The security establishment insists the Maoist movement has consolidated itself and the Maoists hold sway over wide underdeveloped areas across the centre, east and south of the country, forming a strategic geographical corridor.

To substantiate their point, intelligence officials cite the instance of the killing of a Congress leader in Andhra Pradesh Monday by Maoists as he inspected a road construction project in Mahabubnagar district.

'It seemed like a coordinated attack,' one senior official told IANS. Prakash, a member of the Mandal Praja Parishad -, was shot in Marikal, about 150 km south of Hyderabad.

'It is obvious that there is coordination, especially after the merger of People's War Group - and Maoist Communist Centre some years back' to set up the Communist Party of India-Maoist, the official added.

Also the fact that the ninth congress of the CPI-Maoist met in an undisclosed forest area in Jharkhand less than a month ago would have helped the Maoists to close ranks and firm up their line of attack, the sources said.

At the end of January, there were 121 Maoist attacks across India with 27 civilians and 10 security personnel killed. And, like the previous year, both Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand bore the brunt of violence. Last year the two states alone accounted for a whopping 1,025 of the 1,509 attacks that left 512 civilians and security personnel killed.

That Jharkhand has been a perfect breeding ground for Left extremism is evidenced by the fact that almost 16 of the state's 22 districts have been hit by Maoist violence. These include landmine attacks, one of which killed 13 police personnel three months ago, the assault on a Central Reserve Police Force camp and the raid on a prison.

Although an Empowered Group of Ministers headed by Home Minister Shivraj Patil promises to evolve strategies to deal with what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describes as the country's 'biggest internal security challenge', the rebellion continues to engulf huge swathes of the country's centre, east and south.

Just this year, the government deployed 33 paramilitary battalions on anti-Naxalite duty and sanctioned a further 29 India Reserve - battalions, besides setting aside Rs.3.71 billion under the police modernization scheme for weaponry, telecommunication equipment and other infrastructure.

Acknowledging that poverty in Maoist strongholds was still a serious problem, the government also sanctioned Rs.24.75 billion under the Backward Districts Initiative - to fill in critical gaps in physical and social development in affected states.

However, officials in the tribal affairs ministry admit that distribution of development funds still remains a challenge because the delivery system is corruption prone with earmarked monies not reaching the intended beneficiaries. Similarly, Maoist-affected states like Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar have some of the country's lowest ratios of police to population.

Despite the money allocated for police modernisation and expansion, many states have simply been unable to fill up vacancies in police stations despite five rounds of meeting of chief secretaries and directors general of police last year.

Counter-insurgency officials say that unless the government - including concerned state governments - redoubles its energies to contain the Maoist extremism, which currently affects 172 of the country's 602 districts, the crisis can only escalate.

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