What is India Editorial

War on the people

Andhra Pradesh's talks with Naxalite groups is fraught with dangerous consequences not just for the state but for all of India, writes ARAVIND SITARAMAN

What is India News Service
November 29, 2004 

Andhra Pradesh (AP) has concluded its first round of negotiations with the People’s War Group (PWG). AP was the definite loser. Consequently, it has dragged the country into its quagmire.

The PWG started in the 1970s in AP against repression and lack of development from successive Congress governments in that state. Today, its ideology has spanned into twelve states and 120 districts. Worse, it has also aligned itself with the Naxalite movement in Nepal. While the Indian government promises aid, political and diplomatic support, and military training to the Government of Nepal, it seeks to lay off its friendly government in AP. This is not done in a federal structure, is it?

When a problem spans multiple states, it is no longer just a state issue; it is a national issue. The YSR Reddy Government in AP has proven itself to be one of the worst in the state’s history. The Congress came to power based on a promise on a separate state for Telungana, free power for farmers, reservation for minorities, poverty alleviation, and a negotiated settlement with the PWG. It has failed on all accounts. It is now rightly backtracking on the Telungana issue; the state is bankrupt so it cannot provide free power to the farmers; more poor farmers have committed suicide in the last 150 days than during the entire rule of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). While the first three are purely state politics, its lack of strategy and understanding in dealing with the PWG is now threatening to destroy the rule of law in the whole nation.

There are several problems with strategy of Andhra Pradesh and the Centre on its conversation with PWG. Firstly, AP agreed to negotiations with the PWG without the latter laying down arms. Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of terrorism would tell you that this is not a smart idea. The terrorist organization was beaten and reduced by relentless action by the TDP Government over the last four years. The PWG is using this negotiation phase as a means to regroup, rearm, strategize, and gain momentum. The AP Government has allowed numerous “peaceful” morale building rallies conducted by the PWG. How is this peaceful if the organization is going to use it as a means to garner more visibility and support?

Secondly, AP is trying to buy peace by giving the cadres government land. While this may be considered a reasonable strategy to rehabilitate terrorists, it must be preceded by a clear demonstration of goodwill, peace, and intention. None of this has happened. AP’s strategy is similar to the one followed by the Eastern Roman Empire against Attila the Hun. As history has proved repeatedly, no self-respecting democratic state should negotiate with terrorists and barbarians; no matter what grand titles they give themselves—jihadis, naxals, or freedom fighters. It is strange that some national English newspapers actually encourage this effort by asking the AP Government to “synch its estimate of free land with those of the PWG.” This is irresponsible and subversive.

Thirdly, AP has transferred police officers who had a good understanding of the geography, PWG tactics, and locations of their hideouts. By doing this, AP has placated the PWG for no apparent benefit and risked the stability of its neighboring states. In fact, Maharashtra (MH) is now a direct victim of this policy. The regrouped PWG in AP launches attacks on the police in MH—sort of like what the terrorists from Pakistan do to our troops in Jammu and Kashmir (JK).

Fourthly, AP has disbanded its terrorist fighting machinery even before the negotiations have gained ground. It has taken several years of hard work, police lives, and intelligence gathering to deal with the PWG menace. Surrendering this initiative, especially with the experienced officers transferred out, is going to take more time, money, and lives to build up. Perhaps, AP’s strategy is to get peace whatever the cost. This is very facile thinking and can easily impact the nation as a whole.

The Government of India (GoI) has fiduciary responsibility and cannot turn a blind eye just because the Government in AP belongs to the same party. It cannot host contrary policies—one with Nepal and one internally. If the PWG and the terrorists in Nepal link up, India would have to face
a problem several times harder than what is happening in JK as the geography, diversity, terrain, and motivations are varied. The Prime Minister (PM)
talks of increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth through Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). No company, money fund, or individual would be
foolish to invest in places where there is no rule of law.

The GoI cannot allow the incompetence and short-sightedness of one man, YSR Reddy, create problems for future generations of India. The Congress
Party in AP precipitated the PWG development in the first place. Primarily through sheer ineptitude, the same state machinery is threatening the nation
at large. It took a great leader from the same party, Indira Gandhi, to destroy one such movement in the 1970s. Would the party now have the foresight
to follow her example?

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