Do not go soft on Maoists

Instead of amateurs spouting stupidities about ‘development and poverty’ what we need are experts in counter-terrorism who can work out a comprehensive strategy.

By Tavleen Singh on June 2, 2013

There are some things that are so important that they should be above petty politics. The awful massacre in the pitiless jungles of Chhattisgarh is one of them. Injured eyewitnesses have told stories from hospital of how the Maoist killers were so well organised that they carried laptops along with their guns and so brutal that they danced around the bodies of their victims. It is not a bunch of amateur revolutionaries we are dealing with, but an organised insurgency that affects several districts in the heart of India, so, it should be treated as a national emergency and not reduced to childish games of political one-upmanship. And, you would think that since the Congress lost important local leaders in the massacre that it would have the grace to mourn them without making a horrible tragedy worse by making senseless and insensitive charges.

If only before charging the BJP Chief Minister with being complicit in the massacre, the Congress’s senior leaders in Delhi had stopped to ask themselves whether his involvement was even possible. If the Chief Minister was so deeply involved in Maoist activities, so aware of their movements, would he not have been more successful in eliminating the threat? Would it not be in his interest to do this since it would surely earn him the undying gratitude, and the votes, of villagers who routinely become victims of crossfire? If Raman Singh has failed to curb the Naxalite menace in his state it is not from Machiavellian plotting but from criminal incompetence. In my book this is negligence amounting to treason.

When it comes to matters of counter-terrorism, there is nobody I trust more than KPS Gill. Having seen first hand, how he broke the back of the insurgency in Punjab in the 1990s, I know that he knows what he is talking about. And, so, I take his comments on this massacre seriously. In an interview to Harinder Baweja, published in ‘The Hindustan Times’ (May 28, 2013) this is what he said about his time as a security advisor to the Chief Minister in 2006.

“I was posted in Chhattisgarh for one year as advisor and after three or four days into my stint, Chief Minister Raman Singh told me to relax and enjoy my stay…I had drawn up an elaborate plan on how to deal with the threat from Maoists but it was never implemented.”

Ajai Sahni who works with Gill in the Institute for Conflict Management in Delhi, and edits an online publication called the South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR), described the massacre as a disaster waiting to happen. In an article in SAIR, Sahni pointed out that political and administrative complacency, at the highest level, was one of the things that had gone seriously wrong. Quoting from statements made by senior Ministers of the Central Government, he shows, how they have patted themselves on the back for causing the Maoists to be ‘in a phase of tactical retreat’. He quotes the Union Home Secretary RK Singh as telling a Parliamentary committee on March 28, 2013: “There has been absolute turnaround in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and now we are chasing the Maoist groups.”

The complacency was of such staggering proportions that the ever loquacious Rural Development Minister, Jairam Ramesh, gave many interviews in recent months in which he said that the solution to the Maoist problem lay in ‘development’.

It took the massacre of his colleagues for him to notice that the Maoists totally oppose both development and democracy and are committed to an armed struggle to overthrow the Indian State and impose the Maoist dictatorship that they are ready to kill and die for.

Some years ago, when the Prime Minister described the Maoist movement as the most serious threat to national security, I was shown documents comprising Maoist strategic plans by a security expert in Delhi that left me stunned by their sophistication and clarity. At the time, I remember writing that I could not think of a government department that could come up with such intricate planning or such articulate writing. This was before they arrested Khobad Ghandy and discovered that Doon School boys were among the senior leaders of the movement and before all the romantic outpourings of people like Arundhati Roy.

She is not alone in her efforts to try and romanticise the murderous thugs who call themselves Maoist revolutionaries. There have been other writers who have wandered with them in the jungles to depict them as basically decent young people who have been forced to resort to an armed struggle against the India because of the injustice with which adivasis and Dalits have been treated.

The Indian State has usually responded ham-fistedly by arresting men like Binayak Sen on silly charges and by torturing, in the most sickening way imaginable, women like Sori Soni. She is a village schoolteacher who after her arrest was sexually assaulted so brutally that stones were found lodged deep inside her body.

It is India’s tragedy that these things should happen, despite the Prime Minister having noticed nearly ten years ago, that the Maoists were the biggest threat to national security he did nothing about it. There is still no strategy for dealing with what is quite clearly a civil war being waged in the very heart of India.

Instead of amateurs spouting stupidities about ‘development and poverty’ what we need are experts in counter-terrorism who can work out a comprehensive strategy.

It was because of KPS Gill’s comprehensive strategy that he was able to end the insurgency in Punjab. And, had he been allowed to do his job in Chhattisgarh there is little doubt, as least in my mind, that last week’s massacre would not have happened. If the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh is to be blamed for anything, it is for his inability to have used Gill’s services when he was appointed as his security advisor. If he had just listened to what Gill had to say, then he would have learned at least that young policemen admitted to Gill that their police stations controlled only five to ten per cent of their districts and that Maoist writ was imposed on the rest. He would have learned that senior Police officers punished these men for telling the truth. Raman Singh has much to answer for but to charge him with deliberately organising the massacre of Congress leaders is to turn everything into a travesty.


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