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At the heart of darkness

india Updated: May 31, 2010 01:25 IST

The murder of more than 100 passengers on the ill-fated Gyaneshwari Express re-confirms that there is a war on against the Indian State. If some people have been busy cherry-picking what constitutes the Indian State — soldiers, para-military forces, police and government officials somehow being perceived ludicrously as fair game as targets — with the Maoist leadership claiming that it wasn’t behind Friday’s attack, questions about what constitutes the Maoist machinery are now being asked.

As this paper has been underlining, the very principle by which Maoist violence operates is the ‘fish in water’ way of making guerrilla soldiers indistinguishable from common citizens. In this asymmetrical war involving psycho-optical illusions, the government has, therefore, indeed a ‘limited mandate’, if in the sense of having to tread carefully to first identify the enemy and then deal with him.

The latest attack, like the one 11 days ago, has added another layer to this war by paradoxically removing the layer separating ‘civilians’ from the more visible representatives of the Indian State. Strategically, this may put the Maoists in a less comfortable position than before when they had a ‘class target’. But the real question that now arises is whether the Maoist movement — till now under the aegis of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army and the Communist Party of India (Maoist) — is in control of ‘Maoist violence’.

The fact that local elements of the Maoist frontal organisation, the People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) may have carried out the train attack — although the presence of PCPA pamphlets at the wreckage site may have been planted, considering that the organisation’s leadership has denied targeting common citizens — is doubly worrying.

The organisational control of the Maoists at least meant the presence of a structure, a strategy — if not any real objective to their violence. A hydra-headed phenomenon, with the whole not knowing what the parts are up to and using 'Maoism' as a loose calling card, is not something that will be easy to tackle or contain.

Which is why it becomes imperative more than ever before that the central and state governments quickly forge a policy — a military one, if need be — to show that acts of Maoist violence will not be tolerated. It will have to send out the message loud, wide and clear that there will be consequences for making targets of the people of India.