The large-scale deaths, 20 or more, of security personnel in a raid in forests of Chhattisgarh formed the second major incident of violence in the state during a phase of ‘tactical counter-offensive’ planned by the ultras from February 25 to April 20. Five security personnel were killed in a previous offensive on March 25, while some 17 jawans were killed in an attack in Sukma last year. Obviously, there were casualties on the side of the militants too. But this was not unexpected.

A top Maoist was among five persons killed in an offensive in Gadchiroli in Maharashtra five days ago. Last week, the NIA raided over 30 locations in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and a few arrests have been made. Offensives against Maoists are ongoing in Odisha and Bihar, with these seven states forming the contiguous centre-piece of the Maoist/Naxalite movement in the country.

Ten years ago, these leftist ultras were active in as many as 300 districts. The killings of VC Shukla and others in 2013 was a major Maoist offensive. In recent years, there was a lull but the scenario seems to have worsened again. Governmental steps to tackle the problem of leftist violence are multi-pronged. Nearly 120 security camps have been set up in vulnerable areas in Chhattisgarh in the past 20 years and road infra is being developed in interior areas where the problem is  acute.

At the same time, the large-scale exploitation of the poor tribals and other disadvantaged sections of the people by vested interests in these states continue unabated. This scenario helps ultras recruit cadre. States like Chhattisgarh are strong with natural resources like mineral wealth. The poor hardly get anything out of the virtual loot of these by many with help from politicos and bureaucrats. Wages remain pitiably low and exploitation is massive.

Cosmetic efforts will not help end the Maoist menace. Governments both in states and at the Centre showed little interest other than planning security offensives in setting things right. Big sharks from outside these states land up, set up industrial units and exploit the locals with political support. The entire liquor trade in Chhattisgarh, for instance, was controlled for years by associates of a top gun in Delhi. Native politicians too are largely corrupt and there is little of interest in mitigating the plight of the poor. Elections are manipulated with play of money power.

Big talks from the pulpit too will not change the scenario for the better. Nor will the might of the security forces. Tackling Left Wing Extremism (LWE) requires better understanding of why it exists in the first place.

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