Andhra Pradesh has been hugely successful in fighting Maoists for the past four years. People attribute this to the Greyhounds, a commando force, but that is partly true. What actually worked was a solid anti-Maoist strategy. But that did not happen overnight.
The ultra-Left reared their head in 1980 with the formation of People’s War Group (PWG). Andhra did not have a coherent policy for Maoists, who took advantage of this. Every election, the ultra-Left and their sympathisers would persuade an important political party into believing that their support is critical. The wooing was overt and covert. An olive branch would be extended by the party, peace talks would be promised, and a couple of months later, talks would break down.
Before the 2004 state polls, the government offered peace talks. While the talks were on, PWG merged with CPI(M-L) and MCC in September to form the CPI(Maoist), a formidable force. Post-election, talks broke down.
Andhra’s fight against Maoists was successful because by 1997, there was a political consensus that violence can be ended by determined action. Some outstanding police officers persuaded political parties about the need for a strong response. They studied the modus operandi of Maoists, how they were exploiting disparities, inequalities and social tensions in remote areas to reach their goal of overthrowing the government.
Maoists took advantage of slow justice delivery to set up kangaroo courts, they focused on women’s issues only to attract them into the fold, identified new issues to spread their influence and exploited police brutality. Maoists also extorted money from the same contractors and businessmen they condemned in public.
But, police knew that a mere crackdown won’t do. The government had to make people realise that Maoists were disruptive and it had to push its machinery to remote areas and set up schools, dispensaries, police stations, etc. Slowly, the government was able to create a strategy covering the aspects of political response, security and development.
The main plank of the security response was intelligence, opening adequate police stations, better use of resources for police modernisation, a good surrender and rehabilitation scheme, steps for mass mobilisation and rehabilitation of affected civilians.
The successful implementation of anti-Maoist policy depended on (1) Understanding the nature of Maoists, (2) Evolving a consensus that a state cannot shirk its responsibility and (3) Showing the political will to craft a clear and comprehensive policy.
Other states might have to create similar paradigms if they have to curb Maoists.
The author is a former Union home secretary and interlocutor for Nagaland