Rashmi Ramesh Writes: Insurgency is not a new phenomenon in India. It has been a part and parcel of the innumerable challenges faced by the country since its independence from submissive colonialism in 1947. One such threat to internal security is the existence Left Wing Extremism (LWE) also known as Maoism or Naxalism. The main reason observed for this movement to emerge, is poor governance of affected areas in the states like Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. Ironically, these sates have rich mineral resources which are often exploited. Poverty and negligence of the tribal areas has made the people in these regions to indulge in armed rebellion against the state. Though secession is not their ultimate goal, they have been demanding a change in the system of administration which according to them can be achieved only through violent means. Chanakya in his ‘Arthashastra’ states that internal threat with external abetment is one of the most dangerous threats that a state can face. Due to ideological similarities, China is keeping the insurgency alive by supplying weapons to the Naxalites, who are fighting and trying to destroy India from within.
The government data in the past decade (2005-2015) reveals the following figures: 4510 people were killed out of which 1753 were jawans and 2757 were civilians. During the same period, the security forces killed 2193 Naxalites. In 2010, ex-Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh made a statement that Naxalism is the single greatest threat to India’s internal security. In April 2016, India’s Chief of Air Staff Marshall Arup Raha at a high profile Indian Armed forces seminar accused China of supporting Naxalism and warned that “external and internal threats to India are increasingly impossible to separate.”
Given the increasing trend in the number of casualties caused by the Left Wing Extremists, it will not be an exaggeration if this insurgency is termed as the biggest internal threat to the country. To tackle these rebels, government has deployed the police and the para-military forces but the terrain in which the Naxals operate is not easy to penetrate. Hence, there is a thought about utilizing air power to neutralize them given the fact that air force can penetrate easily and drone operations can be undertaken. The question is whether this will curb the insurgency completely or not, also because of the following reasons it is a debated issue: first that Naxalites are Indians and use of armed forces will be controversial. Second that air strikes will cause irreversible damage to forests. Thirdly with air power, men can be neutralized but ideology will remain intact. Thus the alternative to this problem is to develop the Naxal affected areas and to ensure tribal rights over their forests.