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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 16, April 10, 2010

In the Wake of the Deadliest Maoist Attack

Editorial

Saturday 10 April 2010, by SC

In the deadliest Maoist attack on paramilitary forces in the Makrana forests some three kilometres from Chintalnar village in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district—and 540 kilometres soautheast of the State capital Raipur—some 76 personnel of the CRPF’s 62nd Battalion were killed in the early hours of April 6, 2010 thereby manifesting once again the adivasi-dominated Maoists’ resolute determination to resist the Indian state’s concerted efforts, through military means, to reclaim the “liberated territory”. This attack and its horrific effects exposed the total holl-owness of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s repeated assertions, both in Kolkata and at Lalgarh during his recent trip to West Bengal, that while the joint offensives under ‘Operation Green Hunt’ were proceeding quite well and reaping dividends in Chhattisgarh-Andhra-Maharashtra affected by the Maoist virus, those in Jharkhand-Bihar-West Bengal were faltering thus lowering the overall rate of “su-ccess” for the security forces. Today Chidambaram has egg on his face. For as The Hindu has observed,

It was not just one of those inevitable tragedies that scar the road to ultimate victory. It has demonstrated that the architecture of the govern-ment’s counter-Maoist campaign is fundamentally flawed. Mr Chidambaram’s dramatic pursuit of sucess and his high-sounding polemical attacks on the Maoists have endeared him to Indians frustrated by years of inaction against terrorism. However, a poorly thought-through counter-insurgency campaign has ended up jeopardising the lives of men who are being pushed into a battle they are ill-trained and ill-equipped for.

For all these inadequacies, it is the Union Home Minister who must be held squarely responsible and it would not in the least be unjustified to demand his resignation from the high office he holds at present.

Before embarking on ‘Operation Green Hunt’ Chidambaram should have tried other, political, means to tackle the Maoist problem. As Justice P.B. Sawant, the eminent former Supreme Court judge, observed a few months ago at a national convention organised by the Citizens Initiative for Peace [which has been consistently urging both the Union Government and the CPI (Maoist) to work for ceasefire and dialogue] in the Capital, wisdom demanded that a negotiated solution was sought first before launching the paramilitary offensive. But that was not to be. Those words of wisdom fell on deaf ears. The inevitable consequence of this attitude is now for all to see.

While there must be unequivocal condemnation of the killing of the CRPF men in Dantewada on April 6, it needs to be noted that since June 2009 as many as 129 advisasi villagers have been killed by the security forces (not to speak of the manifold atrocities they have been subjected to) in the same region in the course of ‘Operation Green Hunt’. These killings are equally condemnable, if not more, since in these incidents non-combatants have been killed by combatants in the conflict zone.

What is most tragic and unfortunate is that instead of straining every nerve to call a halt to the hostilities in the tribal belt, vested interests (among whom are influential segments of the media) are currently advocating further intensification of the armed conflict. Democratic forces, not owing any allegiance to the Maoist cult of violence, have all along opposed such moves because of their overriding concern for the lives and security of the tribals. But now it appears that it is those tribals, the salt of the earth, who will have to pay the maximum price for no fault of theirs.

In this scenario we must counsel dispassionate introspection by all concerned. We are of the firm opinion that the government should avoid any knee-jerk reaction at this stage. While we are legitimately worried over and denounce the loss of human lives in general, the safety and security of the common men and women, notably the tribals, are of paramount importance for us because we, unlike the vested interests, do not consider them to be expendable commodities.

We are thus making a fervent appeal against whipping up hysteria. Sanity is the need fo the hour.

April 8 S.C.

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