Maoist killings in Dantewada call for multi-pronged response
The well-planned ambush and deliberate killing of more than 70 security personnel by Maoist cadres on April 6 in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh has caused enormous anger and anguish all over India.
The phrase 6/4 is being added to the blood-splattered internal security lexicon of India that is still coping with 26/11 – the equally pre-meditated and cold-blooded Mumbai attacks of November 2008.
Are India’s complex internal security challenges becoming more intractable?
The answer, alas, is yes. And the reasons have to do as much with the virulence of the Maoist cadres as with the inadequate response of the state over the last decade plus.
Notwithstanding the fact that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as far back as November 2005, had identified the Maoist-left wing extremist (LWE) constituency as the gravest danger to the country, the national security apex of the country and the trouble prone states have not been able to create adequate capacity to contain this challenge and provide the right redress and related measures.
When incidents like 6/4 and 26/11 happen, the brief and intense REACTIVE response is predictable.
The dominant collective consciousness that is more focused on cricket, cinema and inane celebrity antics is jolted – but for a short and transient period.
And then it is a reversal to the all too familiar complacency about national security.
As many as 165 out of a total of 626 districts in India have been classified as Maoist-LWE affected in varying degree and the number of security personnel killed or injured – both state police and central paramilitary – has been steadily increasing.
Yet the response of individual states has been either indifferent or inconsistent – and in some states such as West Bengal – local electoral considerations have seen a tacit degree of covert cooperation among the political parties and the Maoist cadres.
It has been repeatedly pointed out – but in vain – that the roots of the Maoist-LWE challenge to the Indian state lies in the latter’s deeply embedded venality and the steady increase in corruption and exploitation of the most impoverished citizens – be they tribals or other sections – by different organs of the state.
And where force is to be applied – as in the case of Dantewada – some degree of professional ineptitude has been compounded by an overall tenor of institutional turpitude.
India needs an effective and equitable multi-pronged strategy to deal with what 6/4 represents that neither demonizes or romanticizes the Maoist cadres.
Overwhelming force is not the answer – lest this constituency become even more intransigent about seeking redress only through violence.
Appropriate development initiatives that reach this social cross-section, whose numbers are growing by the day – and a sincere dialogue process accompanied by swift security counter-measures that will quarantine the more violent cadres is called for.
6/4 calls for equitable justice including apprehending the killers of these 75 security personnel and bringing them to law. Baying for emotive retribution would be imprudent.