As the Maoists extendtheir tentacles across India—they’vealready spread to at least 20 of the 28 Indian states—one question inevitablypopsup in political debate again and again—should India use its armed forces to break the backbone of these marauders? My own take on this is: no, never. Let me explain.
It’s true that the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force have been used in counter-insurgency operations several times in Jammu and Kashmir and in the north-east. What then should prevent the Indian government from using its armed forces to deal with the ‘biggest problem’ (as described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) that India faces today?
The two situations are different. When army troops and helicopter gunships were used to battle the insurgents in Kashmir and the north-east, it was a veritable war against those terrorists who are, it seems, openly funded, equipped and trained by foreign powers. The Maoists are neither bankrolled nor trained by any foreign power, or at least there’s no evidence of that at this stage. Moreover, the insurgents of the north-east and the jihadists of Kashmir have never enjoyed such a wide mass base of support as is the case with the Maoists. And then there’s one factor which can’t be glossed over—the Maoists conduct all their terror operations using civilians as their shield.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
It’s essential therefore to use thermal imagery and satellite imagery,because the Maoists move around in large numbers. They are known for using thousands of men, women and children with civilians as their shields for launching attacks on police stations, paramilitary forces’ camps, jails or other symbols of the state. Satellite imagery will give the government advance warning about the movement of a large group and the problem can be nipped in the bud.
It’s an oft-repeated argument but it’s still valid: the armed forces should bethe very last weapon of resort in the hands of a state. If that fails, the state fails. The military is like a hammer. And if you are a hammer it doesn’t mean that you must fall on every nail that comes your way.