Multiple attacks

Less than a month after Maoists were driven out of Lalgarh, they have struck in Chhattisgarh. Thirty security personnel were killed in three attacks in Rajnandgaon district on Sunday. Policemen who rushed to the site of an attack by Maoists on police personnel were themselves ambushed. In the gun-fight that followed, 23 cops, including a Superintendent of Police were mowed down. In a separate incident, another team of policemen fell victim to another Maoist ambush. It is evident that the Maoists had planned the mutiple attacks. Intelligence agencies had warned that thousands of Maoists who had gathered at Lalgarh had scattered following the government’s security operations there. These Maoists were expected to flee to Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

Chhattisgarh is the state that is worst affected by Maoist violence. And it is here that the government has been implementing the ill-conceived Salwa Judum programme,  which involves arming villagers against the Maoists,  making them vulnerable to the attacks. Many have described the situation in Chhattisgarh as approximating that of a civil war. In recent months, there have been signs of the government changing its approach. Early this year, Chief Minister Raman Singh offered to engage in talks with the Maoists. Three days later, a spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee of the CPI-Maoist said that the Maoists were interested in talks but wanted the government to create a conducive atmosphere and stop suppressing tribals.

It appears that the government was on the brink of appointing an interlocutor. It is unfortunate that the Maoists have carried out an operation at this juncture. The multiple attacks in Rajnandgaon will strengthen the hands of those who are opposed to the negotiation option. These hardliners can be expected to pressure the government to abandon any hopes it has with regard to pursuing a political solution. Hopefully, the government’s resolve to pursue talks will not be weakened by the recent attacks. The road to peace has never been easy and the government must be prepared for bumps enroute.

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