Since its inception in November 2000, Jharkhand has become a "laboratory" for the Naxals - a place for experimenting with the idea of establishing a parallel system of governance. The Naxals have transformed 16 out of the 22 districts if the state into a 'guerrilla zone'. They include Garhwa, Palamau, Chatra, Hazaribagh, Giridih, Bokaro, Ranchi, Latehar, Lohardaga, Gumla, Simdega, East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum, Dhanbad, Seraikela-Kharsawan and Koderma. Of late, they have spread their atrocities to Dumka, Deogarh, Jamtara and Godda. Naxal violence in Jharkhand has claimed the lives of nearly 700 people so far, which includes over 200 policemen.
The Naxal movement in Jharkhand is not limited to armed operations; its manifestations are found in a parallel system of governance that includes elected village bodies, Jan Adalats and a peoples' police. Economic blockades and bandh calls are other examples revealing the helplessness of the state. The Naxals are running a parallel system in the villages of Jharkhand with their own system of taxation. The People's Guerrilla Army (PGA) - military wing of Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) - is entrusted with enforcing Naxal rule and implementing their terror plan.
Denial of justice is the most important reason that has resulted in the establishment of a parallel judiciary in Jharkhand. However, the primary difference between the Naxal kangaroo courts and the subordinate judiciary is the time and cost factor. While the common folk have no way of reaching the existing judicial system, the kangaroo courts reach the deprived sections of society. The Naxals are the sole arbiters of disputes related to jal (water), joru (wife), and zameen (land).
Recent developments in Jharkhand suggest a definite rejuvenation and re-consolidation of the Naxal cadres. Thirteen policemen were killed in a landmine blast, on 8 October in Baniadih, Chatra district, when a police party was raiding the house of a suspected Naxal. Earlier, on 11 September, 200 Naxals raided Bheluaghati in Giridih district, which left 17 villagers dead. Four persons from Turudi in Latehar district died on 31 August following an attack by Naxals belonging to the Jharkhand Sangharsh Jana Mukti Morcha. Similarly, on 5 July, Naxals beheaded three members of the Shanti Sena (peace squad), a group campaigning against the Naxals, in Khairpani village in Gumla District.
The CPI (Maoist) is now on a massive membership drive, especially from rural parts of Ranchi, West Singhbhum, Dhanbad, Palamau, and Garwah. Naxals in Jharkhand are also targeting children between 10 to 15 years age group to include them in their fold and use them to keep a watch on police movements. During a field visit to the Orissa-Jharkhand Border area, this writer spotted some armed child Naxalites seeking food in a village.
Why has this sudden escalation in Naxal violence occurred? It is a pity that despite so many causalities, the government seems confused about the status of CPI (Maoist). Earlier, there was a ban on the MCC and PWG, but the CPI (Maoist) that came into existence after the merger of the two parties has never been banned. The state government is using this ambiguity to hide its failures. At the same time, the Union Government's reluctance to formulate a uniform policy for handling Naxal violence across the country is largely responsible for the violence in Jharkhand. The ban imposed the neighbouring Chhatishgarh has led to considerable Naxal influx into Jharkhand, which is one way of explaining the sudden increase of Naxal activities in the state.
Operation Eagle, Operation X, Operation Shikhar, Operation Hill Top, and Operation Black Thunder are the offensive measures launched by the police from time to time, but none of them has provided the expected result. The problem lies somewhere else, people's faith in the government is lacking. It is not the number of Naxals, but the popular support to them that is the main challenge before the Jharkhand government. Lack of motivation in the state police and serious allegations of human rights violations by the CRPF personnel deployed in the Naxal infested areas are the grey areas where government needs to focus. The much talked about socio-economic programmes need a comprehensive review. Success of the government's military efforts depends on the evolution of a strategy where tribes are not the victims, but partners in the process of development.