Two days after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s visit to Lalgarh in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district — a town ‘liberated’ from CPI(Maoist) clutches last year in June — and after nine policemen were slain by Naxals in Orissa’s Koraput district the same day, India suffered its largest single-day casualty at the hands of the Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. Comments made by Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh (“They are cowards”) and earlier by his Orissa counterpart Naveen Patnaik (“They are behaving in a savage manner”) about the all-too-visible Maoists say less than the one made by Chhattisgarh Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar who bluntly blamed “intelligence failure” for the massacre. When 73 members of the Central Reserve Police Force are killed in a sudden attack by some 700 Maoists, India is facing a very serious problem, much more dire than just a ‘communication breakdown’ among its various wings in its anti-Naxal operations indeed. Let there be no confusion here: if the Indian State keeps losing these battles, it is in jeopardy of losing the war. Whether it has the stomach for it or not, it’s certainly embroiled in one.
Mr Chidambaram’s earlier observation made in Lalgarh about the absolute necessity for the Centre to be in sync with Naxal-affected states (and, to drive the point home, the other way round too) is telling. As the one-sided battle in Chhattisgarh has shown all too glaringly, a military solution in tandem with state forces cannot be shelved in the theoretical realm indefinitely. This is a war that has its origin in many causes — a social, economic and political vacuum left by the Indian State in large swathes of India especially those populated by tribals is one unpalatable reason. But the CPI(Maoist) ideology is not about getting development and justice up and running in these areas but to set up a parallel, vicious entity to rival the Indian State. At least till it’s on the backfoot, don’t hold your breath in the hope of the Maoists to give up their mines, bombs and guns.
In the process, people are being held hostage. To end this tyranny — and some would, with reason, say living between a rock and a hard place — the Indian State must mobilise its forces and restore some kind of symmetry to take on the more unified, working-in-tandem machinery of the Naxals. The time for rhetoric is over. Not working as a unit against a powerful force that certainly works as one will serve only one purpose: strengthen a growing force that is bent on undermining not only the nation but also the people it purportedly uses as an excuse to wage war against India.