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How many coffins do we need to realise the Naxalite problem in India?

“All the best.. Kill the Beast” was the last text message of Assistant Commandant Nitin P Bhalerao, before going on his last operation in the jungles against Naxalites in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, Central India.

The late Assistant Commandant was an officer in the elite Special Operations battalion, the 206th CoBRA of the Central Armed Police Forces (CRPF) and entered service as a Sub-Inspector ten years ago. His colleagues state that the commando strove to be the best in whatever task he took up, led missions against naxalites from the front.

Bhalerao died when a naxal-planted IED (improvised explosive device) detonated at 2030 hours near Arabraj Metta Hills when a special operation was underway, just 6 kilometers west of the Burakpal Base Camp of the force, and 9 kilometers northwest of the Chintagufa Police Station. 

AC Nitin P Bhalerao.
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A total of 8 commandos were injured in the operation, including the second-in-command (2IC) Dinesh Kumar Singh. Bhalerao received grievous injuries and battled for seven hours before succumbing, taking his last breath at 0330 hours on November 29. The other team members were declared out of danger.

Anand Prakash Maheshwari, the Director General of CRPF paid his tributes on twitter “CRPF stands shoulder to shoulder with the family. The sacrifice won’t go (to) waste. We would carry forward the mission with more vigour and synergy and not let adversaries succeed in their dastardly acts.”

Bhalerao was just 33 years old when he laid his life. He was a resident of Nashik, Maharashtra, and was planning to return home around his birthday on December 21. His sister-in-law Vrushali told TheIndianExpress that he usually came each year around Diwali to celebrate the festival with family, but this time he delayed it because he wanted others in his unit to go home for the celebrations, himself staying for operational duties.

Mrs. Bharti Bhalerao, Nitin Bhalerao’s mother, paying respects to her deceased son

“We are very proud of his sacrifice,” she said. His friends described him as being the one who loved his uniform and his spirit to work for the betterment of the situation by joining the forces. “He always wanted to be at the forefront. I wish he had stopped somewhere.”

Bhalerao had served in Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, and Delhi earlier too. After joining in 2010 as a Sub-Inspector, he appeared for Limited Departmental Competitive Exam and was promoted to Assistant Commandant in 2018. He was declared the best outdoor trainee at CRPF’s Internal Security Academy in Mount Abu, and followed up with the best-in-the-world guerilla warfare training at the CoBRA School of Jungle Warfare and Tactics in Belgaum, where again he was adjudged the best all-round trainee. 

The CoBRAs

The CoBRAs were raised as a specialist guerilla and jungle warfare unit of the CRPF, and have considerable experience in combating Maoist terrorists in the Left-Wing Extremist Areas of Central India. They are one of the best jungle warfare units in the whole spectrum of the Indian Armed Forces, and have proved their mettle in fighting Islamic terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir too. They are also some of the best equipped units in the Paramilitary forces actively engaged in combat.

The CoBRAs have received two Shaurya Chakras, notably when CoBRA Commando Ashish Kumar Tiwari single-handedly pinned down a squad of Maoists which resulted in the killing of a top naxal leader and Assistant Commandant RV Mishra for taking down a group of 32 Maoists in Jharkhand in a clandestine operation with a team of only 8 and killing 5 Maoists even after a mine shredded his leg while trying to save a fellow member.

The Naxalite Problem In India

The brave officer was yet another life taken by the Maoist terrorists in Central India.

Their origin can be traced to the split in 1967 of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) following the Naxalbari peasant uprising, leading to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) two years later. Initially, the movement had its epicentre in West Bengal. In later years, it spread to less developed areas of rural southern and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Some Naxalite groups have become legal organisations participating in parliamentary elections, such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation and the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Janashakti.

These Naxals have been declared as terrorists in India, who have resorted to brutal killings, sexual harassment, genocides, disrupting developmental activities in the region. To have an estimate of their ‘problem’, a 2019 report by the U.S. State Department mentioned that the Indian Naxals are the 6th Deadliest Terrorist Organisation in the world, just after Taliban, Islamic State, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and the Communist Party of Philippines.

Narcotics

The extent of narcotics in India is a worrying situation, especially in the younger generation. The consumption of Marijuana (or called weed/ganja) as ‘joints’ and ‘hukkas’ has become a trend among teenagers, and has infested the youth studying even in esteemed universities in India like the Delhi University and others. Recently, there has been a surge in the Narcotics Control Bureau’s raids over Bollywood, while the harsh reality remains that such substances can now be easily found in bags of college students and to a much larger extent in rural India. 

Ganja/Cannabis/Marijuana/Weed/Hash or whatever the names one may call, these are classified as ‘Class One’ drugs in India, and their possession can lead to severe punishment. According to section 20 of the NDPS Act, holding a small quantity (Upto 1kg of cannabis/100gms of charas/hashish can land you up in jail for rigorous imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of Rs. 10,000 or both. For more than small quantity but less than the commercial quantity, the punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10 years or a fine of Rs. 1 lacs or both. In case of commercial quantity (more than 20kg), the punishment prescribed is rigorous imprisonment for up to 10 to 20 years or a fine of Rs, 1 to 2 lacs or both.

How does this relate to Naxalism?

About 40% of the Naxal funding comes with the illegal drug trade of Ganja and Opium in India. Most of the seized narcotics substances in India have been linked to Naxal-infested regions, with these plants being grown illegally in Odisha, Chattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh around the Eastern Ghats, and subsequently being supplied to the Black Market. Even senior police officials have confessed that state police sometimes dither from visiting these areas to stop the illegal cultivation that takes over as dark clouds over the Indian Youth, due to fears of being killed and mutilated.

Naxals also receive funding from some left-wing organizations and NGOs in India, and enjoy support from various leaders in name of politics and government-defiance. In 2018, police arrested 5 so-called ‘activists’ in various cities of India on charges of having links with the CPI (M). However, the contrasting anti-governmental politics in India by Left-Wing parties and some kids from college who might have never researched about the internal security structure of India, began protesting against the arrests, which were made after investigations by the Intelligence Bureau. Links with ISI and underworld dons have also been established, but we won’t go to that part in this article.

Apart from political funding, a large part of the funding comes from extortion money taken from the mining companies in the region- as Central India is one of the most mineral-rich areas in the country. The mining industry is known to be a profitable financial source for the Naxalites, as they tend to extort about 3% of the profits from each mining company that operates in the areas under Naxal control. In order to continue mining operations, these firms also pay the Naxalites for “protection” services which allows miners to work without having to worry about Naxalite attacks.

The Indian Government has always been in constant confusion as to the approach towards the solution of this problem. Regardless of the parties involved in the Centre, each ruling party has faced this problem to tackle the Naxalites-whether to have a strict approach or to win the hearts and minds of the local population by construction activities. Nevertheless, such organisations need to be hit where it pains them the most- fundings. Dear youth, the next time you acquire these highly illegal narcotics, remember you are also playing a role in financing a bomb used by the naxalites which might result in another tricolor-draped coffin for India, along with preventing the local administration from carrying out developmental activities in backward areas. When you think of a broader sense about the national and international issues, it takes precedence over minor everyday problems.

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