A security review by Chief Ministers with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh found leaders worrying about increasing activities of Pakistan-sponsored and directed terrorist outfits organized into “sleeper cells” who are motivated to perform suicide attacks. Highlighting intelligence inputs, Singh warned of intensification of violent “fiyadeen” or suicide attacks by “decentralized micro-terrorist outfits” on religious targets, and vital strategic installations in some urban areas.
Singh said that the only way to deal with this complex internal security challenge is to join central and state forces and focus on leftist extremism (Naxalism) and terrorism from Pakistan . Particularly, the integration of police and local intelligence where the “beat constable” is brought in to fight this menace, it is impossible to succeed. However, while fighting terrorism, the PM wanted the Chief Ministers to be sensitive to minorities, particularly Muslims and motivate them “into becoming allies in this war and persuade some of them to function as counter-terrorist `wardens,' who would report on any kind of unusual activity.” He also wanted to co-opt “the media and getting them to play a more positive role would be useful and this should form part of an overall media management strategy.”
He also wanted a “blend of firm but sophisticated handling of Naxalite violence” which should be accompanied “with sensitive handling of the developmental aspects” and proposed an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM). This group will be led by the Union Home Minister and some Chief Ministers to monitor the Naxal movement.
While most of what Singh said was political fluff, he hit the nail on the head when he said that “The real key in fighting Naxalite violence is "good" intelligence. This would involve effective integration of strategic and tactical intelligence, properly leavened with ground-level information available at the level of the police station.” Unless there is ground-level information on activities, organizations, and movements, there is no hope that India will be able to fight Naxalism or terror unleashed by Pakistan .
Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, and Andhra Pradesh are the worst affected by Naxalism but many other states bordering these states are in danger of joining this trend of disaffected population taking up weapons and acting with impunity and often with political cover.
Often times, the poorer and illiterate districts infested by self-serving politicians, who are more self-serving that the norm, are targeted by the extremists who highlight their plight and show them ways to get around the system to covet, steal, infringe, and aggrandize what they rightly cannot get. Hence, economic development is a major part of the problem which is often confused with sops and largesse by governments where most of the monies get siphoned by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. For example, the Karnataka Chief Minister wanted states delegated development works to be increased by 1 hectare to 5 hectares and delegation of Forest Conservation Act powers. It is not clear what this will solve except allow party cadre to grab more land. Another idea from him was to create a commando force to fight terrorism. While a commando force is crucial in fighting terrorism, unless it is accompanied by sincere economic development of the poor, disenfranchised, and disaffected, there is absolutely no hope that even the most effective commando will succeed.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister said the biggest obstacle fighting Naxalism was the lack of political clarity and consensus on its definition, methods to handle it, and a lack of coherent national policy without which a national action plan would not (and indeed does not) exist. He recommended an expert committee that would include representatives of armed forces, paramilitary, Home Ministry, Intelligence Bureau, and State police and recommend ways to handle it. While his observations were right, if this expert committee is only an advisory group then it is bound to be effective.
However, if it is a coordination committee that integrates intelligence, orders strikes, creates modifications to laws, monitors economic development, and negotiates peace that would be a remarkable step forward