The brutal killing of 18 policemen by around 300 armed Naxalites in Laheri forest of Gadchiroli district just on the eve of Assembly elections in Maharashtra has once again exposed the major faults in the security apparatus and system in the State. Not only that, it also bared the lack of proper coordination and cooperation among various departments of the State and central security apparatus.
Police have placed their informers in Naxal-infested areas of Gadchiroli district to get the whereabouts of the ultras. Sometimes the information provided by these informers happens to be incorrect. But without verifying or corroborating this information from other sources, the troops are sent to fight with the Naxalites. The result: The cops have to bear the brunt of the attack by Naxalites. It happened on February 2, May 22 and latest on October 9 in the same year. The Maharashtra Police department lost some 60 cops in the battle with the Maoists in Gadchiroli.
The Maoist, retorting to the ‘stern’ warning from Union Home Minister P Chidambaram to give up violence or face ‘consequences’, ambushed the search party of Maharashtra Police consisting of 40 cops and attacked them with automatic weapons slaying 18 of them on the spot on October 9 last. The meticulously planned operation took place just 18 km from the Chhattisgarh border in Bhamragarh division of Gadchiroli district of eastern Vidarbha. A young and promising inspector Chandrashekhar Deshmukh, who was on his posting after passing out from Nasik Police Academy, was also killed in by the Maoists in this ambush.
The October 9 incident, is the biggest ever incident that happened in the Naxal history of the State. Earlier, on February 2 the Naxals eliminated 15 cops in Markegaon village, and 16 cops including 5 women in Hattigota on May 22. In both these ambushes the ultras were successful in slaying two brave and promising Police officers of the State.
It was understood that the October 9 ambush was led by a woman Naxal leader called Tarakka, who is said to be sharp-minded leader and known the terrain very well. She is the south Gadchiroli divisional committee member and wife of central committee member and Maharashtra incharge Mullajhola Venugopal alias Bhupati. It is believed that she had masterminded the entire operation against the cops in Laheri forest which lasted for nearly five hours and left 18 policemen dead.
Besides, dreaded Naxal leader Eaitu, who is the commander-in-chief of company dalam and member of Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee also helped Tarakka in executing the operation at Laheri.
The worst part of the entire operation was the cops under attack sent repeated messages seeking help to nearby Police station but no help or reinforcements were sent to rescue them or to bail them out from that precarious situation. The Naxalites were heavily armed against the Policemen, who later went out of ammunition and had no option but to bear the brunt of the Naxal attack. The helicopter was not sent to assist the fighting cops but was dispatched to netas for election campaign. This was against the assurance by the State DGP Anami Roy who, in a Press Conference just four days ago, had said that four choppers were kept ready to be deployed in Naxal infested areas of Gadchiroli district.
And State Home Minster Jayant Patil rushes to Gadchiroli to attend the funeral of these slain policemen by Helicopter the very next day of the incident!
Naxalism today has become a grave threat to our internal security. Right from Nepal in North to Andhra and Karnataka in the South they want to create a Red Corridor from ‘Pashupati to Tirupati’. What started in 1966 at a small, obscure village of Naxalbari in North Bengal has become one of the major security threats to Indian polity. They do not believe in democracy and their slogan is “Power not by ballot but by bullet”. Today they have spread their network in 125 districts of 12 states in India. So far there are 40-odd Naxal groups or dalams, are active in these states and nearly 25,000 people have lost their lives in the Naxal violence. They attack government offices, uproot rails and destroy democratic institutions. Instead of acting tough to curb this violence, the government always offers them the olive branch of talks and negotiations to sort out their problems and demands.
The Naxalites are influenced by the Communist ideology of China and the local Communist parties and leaders do not hide their support to them. Recently General Secretary of CPI A B Bardhan had almost dared the government to take action against the Naxalites while his counterpart Sitaram Yechuri of CPM also voiced his concern over the ‘repressive’ policies of the government to control the Naxal violence.
It is of late, the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram seems to have realised the seriousness of this internal security threat and expressed his resolve to contain the violence in Naxal-infested states. He even went to the extent of using army and air force to curb the ultras. But the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in his recent statement at an election rally in Mumbai said that the government would not use the armed forces against the Naxalites. “They (Naxalites) are not terrorists”, the Prime Minister had reportedly said. But he agreed that they have become the single most internal security threat. “Even though Naxalism was the single most internal security threat, the military will not be used to counter it”, the PM said in an election campaign rally in Mumbai.
This statement of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is directly in contradiction with that of the Home Minister P Chidambaram and Air Chief Marshall P V Naik. Naik had sought the permission of the government to shoot the Naxalites, and Chidambaram had announced to use military to curb the Naxal meance.
For the Prime Minister the Naxal problem is not a terror issue. “We view this as a socio-economic problem and not a law and order problem” Dr Singh had said in the same election campaign rally. He also expressed his readiness to have a dialogue with them provided they give up violence and extortion. Either the Prime Minister is fooling the nation or fooling himself. For, everyone knows that the Naxalites believed in violence and will never give it up. They also know that they have their supporters in the Indian political environment whose support is often needed by the Congress party. So they cannot afford to displease either a Bardhan or a Yechuri.
However hard Chidambaram issued a warning and sent in troops in Gadchiroli to eliminate the Naxal threat, he would not be able to do so unless he gets a nod from the Prime Minister. The million dollar question is will this week-kneed Prime Minister show the most exemplary courage and nationalist fervour to allow his Home Minister to act tough on the Naxalites even at the cost of displeasure of his “Leftists Friends”?