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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 43, October 10, 2009

Challenge before the Democratic Forces

Editorial

Sunday 11 October 2009, by SC

As we go to press news has come of the Indian embassy in Kabul being the target of a fresh terrorist attack. The attack took place this morning (that is, on October 8) killing 17 persons and leaving more than 80 injured. (Reports suggest that the casualty figures are steadily mounting.)

Since August this is the fourth terror strike on major installations in the Afghan capital. This attack eerily resembles the one that rocked the same embassy building in July last year; more than 50 persons perished as a result (and they included four Indian nationals—prominent members of the embassy staff as well as security personnel on guard there). That attack, according to reliable sources in this country, was masterminded by Pakistan’s ISI—an allegation made not only by the Government of India but also the Afghan administration headed by President Hamid Karzai. This time even before New Delhi could point the accusing finger at Islamabad the Taliban has publicly declared its responsibility behind the blast caused by a suicide bomber blowing up his car outside the compound of the embassy. That is quite striking as the ISI’s close links with the Taliban do not bear repetition (and this despite the current clashes between the Taliban and the Pakistani security forces in the tribal regions in the Afghan-Pak border). However, it needs to be also pointed out that due to heavy fortification of the Indian embassy in the Afghan capital carried out after the July 2008 explosion, this time the net effect of the terror strike was less than what happened 15 months ago: no member of the mission was either killed or injured although three ITBP personnel guarding the building suffered minor injuries.

It is now learnt that because of India’s direct involvement in Afghanistan’s national reconstruction efforts—several projects are coming up in that country with Indian assistance—New Delhi would continue to be target of terror outfits (some of which have been fostered and promoted by the Pak intelligence network) totally opposed to Afghanistan’s regeneration and hence modernisation.

Meanwhile India’s internal security remains under strain on account of the Maoist depredations and the state’s response. The latest development on this front has heightened legitimate concern. Only day before yesterday (that is, on October 6) Jharkhand’s Special Branch Inspector Francis Induwar’s body, along with his severed head, was found near the Raisha valley under the Namkom P.S. about 12 km from Ranchi—he was abducted some time ago by suspected Maoists, and this gruesome killing is also suspected to be the handiwork of the Maoists. This has shocked not only the people of Jharkhand but also citizens of the entire country beyond measure, and human rights groups, vocally protesting against both Maoist and state terror, have not hesitated to roundly condemn with promptitude such activities on the part of those claiming to defend the interests of the hapless people in the tribal hinterland of Central India (precisely because such terror acts help to legitimise the state’s counter-terror operations that would only perpetuate the spiral of violence in the affected regions bringing untold misery to the tribal population who are already the real victims of this violence besides being subjected to unending age-old deprivation and exploitation).

In the circumstances the authorities are hell-bent on going ahead with their military operations against the Maoists in the tribal belt without taking any political measure to tackle Maoism. (Such an operation has already been launched in West Bengal’s Lalgarh although those well aware of the ground reality know that this is not a Maoist base even if Left-wing extremists have registered their presence there of late.) This myopic approach, one is convinced from past experience, will be counter-productive in the final analysis. As of now, Union Home Ministry sources have grudgingly confessed that success has eluded the security forces both in Lalgarh and Chhattisgarh (where too the so-called Operation Green Hunt is underway). So it is difficult to hazard any guess about what the actual outcome of such a strategy would be and who (the security forces or the Maoists) would inflict more damage on the adversary. But on one point there should be no dispute: howsoever much the Central Ministers declare their intention to minimise collateral damage, that damage cannot be avoided in such a massive military operation and in that eventuality the country would earn the permanent hostility of the tribals, the indigenous adivasis, who are already alienated from the polity at large due to inhuman neglect on the part of the powers that be.

According to latest reports, the Indian Air Force would be pressed into service against the Maoists. Of course the Air Chief has clarified that the IAF won’t be waging a war against the Maoists (in deference to Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s aversion to such a step) but would only open fire in self-defence. But does this also mean that moves are afoot to escalate Operation Green Hunt?

Simultaneously, in West Bengal the State administration run by the CPM is threatening with dire consequences those intellectuals who are opposed to such military action against “Maoists†like Chhatradhar Mahato. Mahato has never been in the thick of the Maoist movement but has led a democratic and popular struggle against police atrocities in Lalgarh. (Incidentally, he was arrested by such a devious method by the police seeking to demean the noble profession of journalism that would make any and every self-respecting journalist hang his/her head in shame.)

All these pose a serious challenge before the country’s democratic forces as a whole.

October 8 S.C.

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