Friday, December 21, 2007




Shri K.S.Subramanian, a distinguished officer of the Indian Police Service, had served in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) as an Assistant Director from 1967 to 1972 and in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of the Government of India as the Director of the Research & Policy (R&P) Division from 1980 to 1985. He had also served in the Tripura Police. He is an acknowledged expert on political violence in India. He has recently published a well-researched book on "Political Violence and the Police in India", which has been brought out by the SAGE Publications of New Delhi.
2. He covers in his well-edited and lucily-analysed study the functioning of the Indian Police System, the Intelligence Bureau and the MHA particularly in dealing with violent movements arising from economic and social causes. His analysis of the Naxalite violence since its inception, the inadequacies in the way it is being handled and a possible strategy for the future should receive the well-merited attention of our Prime Minister, the Chief Ministers of the States and the policy-makers at a time when there has been an upsurge in Naxalite violence right across our tribal belt in Central India. Addressing a meeting of Chief Ministers at New Delhi on December 20,2007, the Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, reportedly expressed his concern over the continuing spread of Naxalite violence and stressed the need for the formulation of an appropriate strategy to neutralise what he reportedly described as a virus by paying attention to both development and effective security in the affected areas.
3. Any exercise to modify our present strategy in order to make it more effective in future has to be based on an objective analysis of the lessons learnt by us in the past. Unless the exercise pays attention to past lessons, we will continue repeating the same mistakes. Subramanian's book could make a valuable contribution to such an exercise, if it is taken seriously by our policy-makers.
4.Some of the salient points of the conclusions of Subramanian are given below as a starting point of this note on the Maoist (Naxalite) problem:
The main official sources of information on the Naxalite problem are two--- the State Governments and the IB. The official reports are often biased or partial and self-serving. The IB is a police organisation with limited capacity for an objective analysis of complex social issues. Its reports, invariably classified, cannot be subjected to objective scrutiny in the MHA and have to be accepted at face value. The IB also provides information directly to top politicians such as the PM and the Home Minister in the form of signed or unsigned or oral reports on situations of considerable delicacy and complexity. When the R&P Division existed in the MHA, it produced many useful reports on complex issues such as agrarian violence, communal violence, students' unrest, separatist movements, the language agitation etc. But it could never be successfully institutionalised mainly because the IB, which had been functioning as the main reporting agency of the Ministry, perceived it as a threat to its information monopoly. A prolonged war of attrition over the future of the Division began, which resulted in its eventual winding-up. The report on the "Causes and Nature of Agrarian Tensions" prepared by the Division in 1969 in the wake of the emergence of the Naxalite movement differed sharply from the IB analysis on the subject. It was a pioneering exercise, which examined the agrarian roots of the Naxalite movement. It warned that the Green Revolution could turn into a Red Revolution if appropriate land reforms were not undertaken. It produced a follow-up report on agrarian tensions in 1972.
5. The wake-up calls of the Division had little impact on policy-making even in the MHA on those responsible for maintaining law and order.According to Subramanian, the Naxalite movement was brutally suppressed by police action by 1972. Citing Shri T.C.A.Srinivasavaradhan, former Union Home Secretary, Subramanian writes: " As one former Home Secretary puts it, excessive preoccupation with peace and order at the cost of law and justice had proved costly, with the objective socio-economic conditions behind agrarian violence being ignored. " (22-12-07)---- To be continued
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )