When the Narendra Modi government took over in the year 2014, two key areas which required attention were internal security and development. During the analysis that were conducted after taking over as Prime Minister, Modi was advised to focus extensively on the Naxal menace.

The threat from the Naxalites was bigger when compared to the one from the Islamic terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba or Jaish-e-Mohammad. What made the threat from the Naxalites even more dangerous is that it was internal and worse, they had an eco-system in the cities, which would propagate and sympathise on their behalf.

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In this backdrop, one has to go through the latest report by the US State Department, which went on to describe the Communist Party of India (Maoist) as the sixth deadliest terror organisation. The Country Report on Terror 2018 ranked the CPI (Maoist) as the deadliest terror outfit in the world after the Taliban, Islamic State, Al-Shahaab, Boko Haram and the Communist Party of Philippines.

The numbers:

Counter terror experts say that since 2014, the government has taken several steps to bring down this menace. One may say that the Naxalites are on the last leg in some places, but they still remain a menacing force and could spiral out of control if they go unchecked.

Going by the statistics, there is a clear decline in the number of incidents by Naxalites. However, when compared to the terror incidents, and other groups, the violence by the Naxalites is still higher according to the US State Department Report. It says that the Naxalites were the key perpetrators of terror incidents in India and were responsible for 176 of them in 2018.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen were responsible for 60 and 59 respectively and in the case of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba it was 55 in the year 2018.

All the security agencies in India still rate the Naxal movement as still the most dangerous. Take for instance, India’s most wanted man is not a jihadi, he is a Naxalite. India most wanted man is Mupalla Lakshman Rao alias Ganapathy and he carries on his head a reward of Rs 15 lakh. The second and third most wanted are Balamuri Narayan Rao and Nambala Keshav Rao, again Naxalites. They are followed by the likes of Dawood Ibrahim, Riyaz Bhatkal, Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Masood Azhar, just to name a few.

While the NIA has announced a bounty of Rs 15 lakh for Ganapathy, the overall reward in his case stands at Rs 2.5 crore. The states of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand have all announced bounties on his head and the total amount stands at Rs 2.5 crore the highest for anyone on India’s most wanted list.

For the Naxalites to be identified as the biggest threat, there are a variety of reasons. Several officials that MyNation spoke with and the documents analysed clearly suggest that Naxalites apart from attacking security forces and innocent people also aim at destroying the social fabric of the entire nation.

The Bhima-Koregaon case was a classic example of how the Naxalites were trying to disturb the social fabric ahead of the 2019 elections. They were instigating people, particularly the Dalits and were inciting violence. What was worse was that these commands did not come from the jungles, but were allegedly planned in the cities by their sympathisers.

The Urban Force:

While there is no doubt that the Naxalites are an extremely dangerous force in the jungles, security agencies flag the rise of the urban force and say that this is more lethal. The plan to set up an urban force has been there for a very long time.

CPI (Maoist)-Urban Perspective is a 53-page document prepared by one Govindan Kutty clearly lays out the road map for the setting up of an urban force. He speaks about how they should get the Muslims, Christians and other indigenous people together and fight the Hindu majority.

The document also emphasises heavily on the need to carry out a propaganda against the Indian Army and its soldiers. The soldiers who fight terrorists at the border are often dragged into false human rights issues by activists in the cities. The soldiers are questioned even if they act after coming under the line of fire by terrorists.

If one goes through this document in detail, it is clear that this is part of a larger propaganda. There is one chapter that is dedicated to the Army. Kutty speaks about the need to infiltrate into the Indian Army.

He says that it is important to penetrate into the military, police, para-military forces and the administrative machinery of the state. This would help obtain information regarding the enemy and build support for the revolution within these organs. The document says that such large-scale infiltration would also help in inciting revolt.

It is at this point that the document discusses the importance of having an urban Naxal force. The cities are strongholds of the enemy and have a large concentration of enemy forces, the document says. Such tasks should be done by building contacts in the civilian sphere or by allocating comrades to penetrate the enemy ranks, the document also states.

Kutty further notes that they should work in the Cantonment areas and they should also secretly follow up contacts of those already within these forces. We need to regularly create propaganda regarding the problems of the constables and soldiers, and we should raise issues and arouse them to agitation, Kutty also notes.

We need a small team of dedicated soldiers who are permanently based in the cities or towns so that we can hit important enemy targets. Such targets could be annihilation of individuals of military importance or sabotage actions like blowing up of ammunition depots, destroying communication networks of damaging oil institutions, the document also reads.

When the Pune Police chargesheeted Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut, it spoke about a larger conspiracy to create an unrest and overthrow a government. The chargesheet was filed after the Bhima Koregaon violence of January 2018. The police said that it is the policy of the CPI (Maoist) to mobilise the Dalit community, provoke them into taking a violent path and mislead them.

An unrelenting fight:

The strategy of the government is to fight the Naxal movement on two fronts. While it is important to keep them down in the jungles, it is equally necessary to keep their ideology under check in the cities. It is those who sympathise and propagate on their behalf in the cities who are clearly more dangerous.

Intelligence Bureau officials say that there are scores of NGOs that are run on behalf of the Naxalites. They have for several years now been re-routing the funds into the forests. In 2018, the Union Home Ministry brought under its scanner several NGOs which were fuelling anti-national activities. An advisory too was issued to this effect directing all states to keep a close watch on the NGOs.

During the investigations several NGOs came under the scanner of the agencies. It was found that the Bhima Koregaon violence was staged by an NGO. Further action was also taken against the NGOs that were being run by Zakir Naik and Teesta Setalvad in different cases.

When the Modi government took over in 2014, there were nearly 42,500 NGOs that had a licence to receive foreign funds. In the year 2016, a major clean up took place and unrelenting investigations found that scores of these NGOs had not filed their annual returns for three years. It was suspected that this was largely because the funds were being diverted. Following a thorough probe, it was learnt that a whopping 22,500 NGOs in various parts of the country were suspect.

In addition to this there are some impressive statistics when it comes to the fight by the security forces against the Naxalites. In the year 2009, there were 1,258 incidents of terror by the Naxalites. By 2018 it came down to 176. In 2014, the number stood at 1,091. Since then there has been a gradual decline. The years 2015, 2016 and 2017 reported, 1,089, 1,048 and 908 incidents respectively.

The number of civilian casualties too dropped drastically from 720 in 2010 to 188 in 2017, which incidentally is the lowest since 1999. Intelligence Bureau officials say that this is a continuous process and if this momentum continues both in the jungles and forests, India would be able to tide over the problem soon. Better coordination and intelligence sharing as well gathering also had led to the arrest of 4,123 Naxalites between 2016 and 2018. The number of districts affected by the Naxal movement also witnessed a drop from 120 to 90 in the past five years.