Maoists cross a red line, again | HT Editorial
In a reminder that India’s single biggest internal security threat, as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh framed the challenge from Left-wing extremism, is still alive, the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) killed 22 security personnel in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district over the weekend. While reports suggest that up to 20 Maoists were killed in the encounter too, there is little doubt that the incident represents a grave setback to the Indian State in general, and security forces in particular. It appears that Maoists planted intelligence about the presence of a dreaded commander, Madvi Hidma, in a particular location; over 1,700 men from various security agencies launched an offensive from Sukma and Bijapur; Maoists then executed a “U-shaped attack” where they fired from the two hilltops as the jawans were at lower levels in two villages, both of which had already been evacuated by the Maoists. The forces walked into the trap, losing brave men and dealing a blow to India’s battle against the Maoist insurgency.
The incident reveals State failure at two different levels. One, at the level of principle, any State must have a monopoly over force — the fact that there is an armed insurgent outfit in the country that openly espouses war against the State, in itself, reflects the continued failure of governments across the political spectrum. Two, more specific to this incident, despite denials by security agencies, there has been a clear operational and intelligence failure. Did the forces exercise due diligence on the intelligence they received? Did they follow all SOPs before launching the combing operation? Was there any contingency planning for a scenario where Maoists would launch a surprise attack, which they have done in the past too?
While home minister Amit Shah has promised a fitting reply, it is important that the government embark on a careful multi-pronged approach. One, ramp up security and intelligence, track Madvi Hidma, and bring the culprits of the recent attack to justice. Two, enhance coordination between the Centre and all Maoist-affected states. Three, ensure that any security offensive does not lead to human rights violations, which provide fertile ground to Maoists to recruit. Four, ensure participatory development and greater incomes to local population, and ensure justice to stem any sense of alienation. The State must act against Maoist terror, but smartly and carefully. And quickly.