The Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh on Tuesday was just a replay of the many that have taken place since the most deadly ambush in April four years ago. For the past few years it is direct attack that has been more resorted to in targeting the security forces.
This is particularly worrying because it shows an increase in the number of guerrilla fighters who are ready to take up the cause of bringing about a revolution through violent means. This has been evident particularly since June 2008, when the red brigade attacked a boat on the Balimera reservoir on the Andhra-Odisha border, and killed 38 elite Greyhound troopers. Twelve CRPF jawans died in landmine blasts in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, in March 2012.
The fact that the attack on Tuesday took place barely 15 km from the spot where Congress leaders were killed in May last year shows not just a lapse of intelligence but also a measure of foolhardiness and collective amnesia. It cannot be that the entire paraphernalia of the police and insurgency strategists was not aware of the terrain that the Maoists could use to their advantage.
The intelligence bureau has responded by saying the team ignored alerts that ultras were coming in from Odisha. Next comes the question of coordination among the police, the central paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies. After 27 CRPF jawans were killed in Narayanpur in June 2010, the director general of police of Chhattisgarh almost blamed the CRPF by saying since they left early in the morning, they should have gathered intelligence inputs the night before.
The CRPF’s reply to this was that intelligence was not available to them ‘in a proper manner’. Regardless of who was right, such a lapse is deplorable when it could cause a loss of human lives.
Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde has vowed to take “revenge” for the Maoist attack, which is just a symptom of what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the gravest “security threat” to India. The question is: Why can’t there be a political solution to the problem? When the district collectors of Malkangiri in Odisha and Sukma in Chhattisgarh were abducted, there were negotiations by people whom both the State and the Maoists trusted to secure their release.
There is ample opportunity to broaden the scope of this approach. The insurgencies in Assam and Punjab could be solved through a measure of diplomacy. In this case also a beginning can be made through engaging people who have credibility, are competent and are unbiased.