India Insight

Sympathy for the devil? Maoist supporters get flak


Hours after Maoist rebels detonated a landmine under a bus in central India on Monday, killing about 35 people including policemen, Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram was unapologetic in his criticism of civil society organisations that he said were getting in the way of the state’s efforts to contain the rebels.

It is “almost fashionable” to be sympathetic to the Maoist cause, Chidambaram said in an interview to NDTV news channel.

In defending the rebels and questioning the motives of the government — and not of the rebels — they were weakening the apparatus of the state, he said.

Maoist rebels have been romanticised by some writers and filmmakers, portrayed as modern-day Robin Hoods fighting the establishment and corporate greed to protect the rights of the poor and the marginalised.

Rights activists, some NGOs and writers, including Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy, have slammed the government for failing to address what they say is the root cause of the Maoists’ fight: isolation from India’s economic growth party.

Is the government losing the plot in tackling Maoist insurgency?

A day after hundreds of Maoist rebels trapped and killed 76 Indian security personnel in a heavily mined swathe of jungle in Chhattisgarh, a feeling of shock pervades the national psyche.

The nature of the attack, the detailed planning that went into it and the government’s reaction thereafter has raised the question that is being debated for some time now.

The bodies of policemen are removed from a vehicle in Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh, April 6, 2010. REUTERS/StringerIs it time to involve the better equipped and better trained armed forces in ongoing anti-insurgency operations?