Special Report from Darbha
The Naxal attack on Congress rally in Chhattisgarh on May 25 surprised many. The reason is many Congress leaders have been pushing a soft approach towards these terrorists. Instead of strengthening the fight, the Congress leaders have now started blaming the state BJP government for the attack. If the Congress high command allows its leaders to sabotage the anti-Naxal operation like this, it should be ready to answer many other questions also. People in Chhattisgarh are asking as to who was present and who was not in the Congress rally, who came first, who came late and who survived and who got caught in the attack. The judicial probe may answer all these questions.
Blaming others but ignoring the suspicious role of its own leaders
The May 25 dastardly attack on Congress Parivartan Yatra in Jhiram Valley under Darbha region, has bared the Maoists dangerous intention that they can stoop to any level. In this attack 27 persons including Chhattisgarh PCC president Nandkumar Patel, his son Dinesh, former Minister Mahendra Krma, and former MLA Uday Mudliar were killed, while 30 were injured including former Union Minister Vidya Charan Shukla.
The incident has shaken the political circles which instead of going to the roots of the incident indulged in blame game. On that day the Congress Parivartan Yatra departed for Kaishlur after the meeting at Sukma. On the way National Highway 30 is covered with dense forest. This is the ideal place for such ambush. As per the security norms the police road opening party precedes the VIPs on such route. This party identifies and removes the land mines and inspects the jungles. But on that day no such exercise was undertaken amounting to very serious security lapse. Tongpal and Darbha police stations are located at a distance of 10 km from the place of incident. Those at the front of the caravan reached Darbha and informed the police about the Maoists attack. But the police could not do anything.
According to eyewitness nearly 300 Maoists including women in large numbers were involved in the attack. Such large contingent cannot reach the place in a short time. The villagers of nearby areas told that they had seen newcomers a couple of days ago in the area. The Maoists were hiding in the dense forest waiting for the ambush. That nobody could notice these 300 Maoists hiding along the National Highway was also astonishing and exposed the chinks in the intelligence apparatus.
As a punitive action after the incident the Bastar SP Mayank Shrivastava was suspended while IG Himanshu Gupta and Collector Ambalgan were transferred. Every big attack is considered as intelligence failure and this time too those responsible for the failure were spared.
Following the 2010 Tadmtala attack in which the Maoists gunned down 76 CRPF, the security forces were equipped with latest weapons and communication techniques and their number was also increased. The campaign against the Maoists was intensified.
This year too, the government was planning a major offensive against the Maoists with the cooperation of bordering state police forces. This would have posed a serious challenge before the Maoists hence they decided to attack first to raise the morale of their cadre and remain in the news. Therefore, for the first time they targeted the top leaders of the state as their targets. The Intelligence department was getting regular information about the possible congregation of Maoists on Odisha border. The intelligence department was expecting an attack on police stations in Darbha area but the Maoists took everyone by surprise by targeting the senior leaders of the Congress party.
The information technique of the Maoists seems to be very strong and far ahead of that of the security forces. The People’s Secret Service of the Maoists keeps the tab on each and every happening in their area while the urban network keeps surveillance on the government machinery.
In Bastar area there are two regional committees and seven divisional committees under the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee of Maoists. Each divisional committee is comprised of 3-4 area committees and every area committee has 3-4 local organisational squads and local guerilla squads. Amongst them LOS is a political unit, while LGS is armed unit. In addition to this there are two battalions of Maoists in Abuzamad and South Bastar. Women comprise over 40 per cent of the total military strength of the Maoists.
Narrow political considerations only weakening the fight
The May 25 cowardly massacre executed by armed Maoists in the jungles of Bastar in Chhattisgarh can be described as a dastardly attack on India’s political system. It was for sure aimed at conveying a strong message to the political parties of the country that any attempt to ‘tresspass’ into Maoist territory will not be tolerated; and whoever tries to quell the Maoists will be subjected to a violent end at the first opportunity available.
The pre-planned attack on the convoy of Congress leaders near Sukma by a heavily armed Maoist group of around 300 besides exposed their ugly face and also underlined the observation that the Maoists will not listen to reason nor will they accept any solution to their grievances in a peaceful manner. They believe in the famous Communist principle that ‘power flows through the barrel of a gun’. They are not interested in ameliorating the conditions of the people for whom they claim to be fighting the oppressive system. They are, as Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said, only terrorists and should be given the befitting reply in a language they understand.
Ramesh, who holds Rural Development portfolio in Union Cabinet and who has generally been against the hardliner approach towards the Maoists, lashing out at them said they had no faith in Constitution, democracy or the democratic institutions. Theirs was not ideology-based Maoism but it was based on extortion, he added. “Maoists are terrorists. What else are they? You can’t romanticise them. They are spreading fear. They are spreading terror”.
He has also underlined that the Maoist attack was associated with a political signal. “The incident was not just a killing. This is carnage of unprecedented ferocity. It is carnage of unprecedented magnitude and it has a political signal associated with it.”
The Maoist bloodbath in Chhattisgarh is also an assault on everything that democracy upholds. The Maoists till now had been targeting the security forces. Their aims and objectives are clear. They want total destruction of the democratic republic of India and destroy all the values that India and Indian society holds dear to it since ages. Their method is armed struggle. They do not believe in talks and discussions. To believe that the Maoists problem can be resolved through dialogue or discussion across the table, would be too naïve to the ground realities.
As expected the political blame game over the incident has begun with both the Congress which lost its core leaders in the attack and the ruling BJP trading charges against each other. The BJP has been ruling the state for two consecutive terms and is highly hopeful and confident too to do a hat-trick this time. When Chhattisgarh came into existence the first government was headed by Ajit Jogi of Congress. Jogi, a former IAS and a blue-eyed boy of Sonia Gandhi, was picked up as Chief Minister by Congress president in November 2000 ignoring the other senior leaders in the party. During his tenure there were no Maoist activities. But as soon as the BJP came to power in the state, the Maoists raised their ugly head on a number of occasions. But they targeted the security persons mainly. The 2010 April ambush on a CRPF camp in Chintalnar, where 76 CRPF men were gunned down by the invading Maoists, is still fresh in public memory. The latest May 25 attack was of similar dimension but for the change in the target. This time the Congress leaders were made to pay for their opposition to Maoists and their policies.
Chhattisgarh government has adopted certain standard operating procedures (SOPs) vis-à-vis Maoist activities. Mahendra Karma, who was the main target, was instrumental in initiating ‘Salwa Judum’ the anti-Maoist mechanism in the state, which was continued by the BJP government until the Supreme Court scraped it down. Ajit Jogi was dead against this ‘Salwa Judum’. Nandkumar Patel, another victim of the mindless violence of the Maoists, was supporting Karma in his fight against them. VC Shukla was all opposed to Jogi since the early days and had raised strong objections when Jogi was tipped to be Chief Minister of the state. It was an unfortunate coincidence that all the leaders who died or seriously injured in this attack belonged to anti-Jogi camp in the state Congress.
The Congress believed that the BJP manipulated the votes in Bastar during the last elections. They wanted to fill the space in that area and hence the ‘Parivartan Yatra’ was organised. But violating the SOPs the Congress announced the route and other details of their yatra well in advance much to the advantage of the Maoists. By doing so, the Congress helped the Maoists to comfortably coordinate and execute the ‘deliberate ambush’ in which 27 people were killed including top leaders of the Congress party.
The Maoist attack has landed the BJP in a very difficult situation. Being a ruling party, it has to accept the responsibility of inadequate security cover to the Congress yatra. The Chief Minister by accepting the lacunae in security system has blunted the sharpness of opposition attack. But the real test of BJP leadership will be in effectively countering the attempts of the Congress party to politicise this issue to its benefits. Chhattisgarh is going to polls in November this year and Congress will go all out to keep this issue alive till then. The anger, anguish and concern of the Congress leaders can be understood. But they will not stop from making politically suggestive and loaded statements.
Maoism and Maoists are the national challenge. They have spread their tentacles from Pashupati in Nepal to Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. As such this cannot be treated merely a ‘law and order’ issue and left to the state government to tackle. When he was Home Minister P Chidambaram had proposed national level policy to contain Maoism. But that could not be finalised due to opposition from within the Congress party itself. Congress needs to do some fresh rethinking and homework on this issue. Maoists are a threat to democracy and political system and not just a law and order problem. The message of Chhattisgarh bloodbath is clear and loud.
HM misses action again
When the country grappled with brutal Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh, the Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde was missing in action. He was holidaying in the United States. He left New Delhi on May 19 to attend the Indo-US Homeland Security dialogue. But the meeting was over on May 22. Instead of returning he extended his stay. He returned only on May 30. “You can sit on the moon and say we are monitoring everything but that is not what is expected of a person who needs to be on the ground and be in control of the situation,” said BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi, while commenting on the HM’s absence.
Deal with the Maoist violence decisively: RSS
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) condemned the Maoist attack on Congress leaders and workers in strongest words. In a statement issued in New Delhi on May 26, RSS Sarkaryavah Shri Bhaiyaji Joshi said no problem can be resolved through violence and the governments should deal with the Maoist violence sternly. “The gruesome violent attack on Congress party workers near Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh on 25 May has gravely shocked and deeply grieved the entire nation. Probably it is the largest ever violent attack on any political party workers. No problem can be solved by violence. Besides taking effective measures to eradicate scarcity and bring development in the Vanvasi and backward areas, the Government should deal with the violence of Maoists sternly. The administration should be more alert and ensure security to the people of the country to perform their duties and rights in democratic way,” Bhaiyaji said in the statement.
The Naxal Bloodbath
Uttar Pradesh 3
West Bengal 4