Maoists have edge in battle for mind & heart

TIMES INSIGHT GROUP

India’s biggest internal security threat, as the Prime Minister famously described it, may be worse than you thought. That’s because even in Andhra Pradesh, where the battle against the Maoists has apparently been won, it turns out that the government is losing the battle for the minds and hearts of the people. An exclusive survey of the once Maoist dominated districts of the Telangana region of the state by IMRB for The Times of India has found that while attitudes towards the rebels are ambivalent, the condemnation of the government and its means of tackling the problem is quite clear.

The findings raise disturbing questions about whether focusing largely on the policing aspects of the problem may be a flawed strategy in the long run. They also throw up another poser: Has the battle in AP truly been won or can the Maoists stage a comeback in a few years?

Consider the facts. A clear 58% of those polled in the small towns of five Andhra districts — that adjoin the Maoist-dominant areas of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa — said Maoist uprising had actually been good for their area and only 21% said it had been bad. Only 38% said life had improved after Maoist activities had gone down in their area, with 27% maintaining it had worsened and 34% saying it had not changed.

It’s not as if the people of the region are unequivocal supporters of the Maoists’ aims or their methods. On whether killings by Maoists were justified, 52% said they were entirely or mostly justified, but an almost equal proportion, 42%, said they were not. Also, when asked the reasons for the Maoist influence in their area, 46% said it was due to fear. Only 9% attributed it solely to popularity and a large chunk of 45% said both fear and popularity played a role.

However, when asked about government agencies killing Maoists, only 34% felt the killings were justified,while 65% said they weren’t. It’s clear that the Indian state’s credibility is particularly low in these areas and is probably the reason why the Maoists have thrived here.

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Courtesy: The Times of India, http://epaper.timesofindia.com , September 28, 2010

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