ASHUTOSH BHARDWAJ: Latest war cries against Naxals are absurd. Go visit Bastar, a war is already on

The most-quoted statement about the Naxal insurgency to demand an ‘all-out assault’ on the rebels, a statement that is again in currency following the recent Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh, has come from a prime minister not really known for his assertiveness. But what complicates the irony are the events before Manmohan Singh termed Naxals the “single biggest internal security challenge” in April 2006. 

Exactly a year before his statement, the Tatas signed a much publicised MoU on 4 June 2005 with the Chhattisgarh government for a mega steel plant in Bastar. A day later, Salwa Judum was formally launched to terminate the insurgents from Bastar, and began the most bloodied decade of the State-Naxal battle. The Tatas had to eventually shelve the project a decade later, but a large number of adivasis who joined the Naxal ranks following the protests against the project continue to carry a rifle to date.

Bastar was relatively quiet before Salwa Judum, with just a few paramilitary battalions. Dandakaranya had become the Naxal capital and their laboratory by then; but they had limited armoury, mostly single-shot guns and the obsolete bharmar (fill and shoot). Today, Bastar has some 50 central battalions, besides Bastaria battalions and adivasi women commandos, with new additions every year, making several parts of Bastar among the most militarised zones on the planet….

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