Malkangiri incident exposes many truths

This statement by Union home minister P Chidambaram has turned out to be a big relief for the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD government in Orissa, which has been at the receiving end for the manner in which it handled the kidnapping of Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna and a junior engineer, Pabitra Majhi, by Maoists.

The abduction episode has thrown up a number of unanswered questions and the most important among them is why did collector Krishna decide to visit an interior pocket of his district known as a highly naxal-infested area without any security.

Krishna should have been well aware of the fact that the Maoists are waging a war against the state and being the principal representative of the state in the district he would be one of the important targets of the red rebels operating in the area. Malkangiri is not only the number one naxal-hit district in Orissa but also borders two other Maoist-affected states in the country, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.
Inter-state plot

In fact, it has already been revealed — subsequent to the collector’s release — that the high-profile abduction was engineered by the naxal groups from Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh and not by the Maoists operating within Orissa.

The argument that Krishna decided to go on the tour without security — he had already been provided with personal security officers (PSOs) by the government — to avoid attracting the attention of the Maoists is not a valid one as it is common knowledge that the left wing ultras had sufficient intelligence network to track down the movement of their possible targets. The manner in which the collector was almost led to a kidnapping trap clearly proves that the Maoists were keeping a close watch on his every step.

Despite his hard and honest work for the development of the poor tribals, Krishna’s only wrong move has already provided an opportunity to his detractors to call him a ‘highly irresponsible administrator’.

The hasty manner in which the Orissa government took steps to resolve the crisis also puzzled many. In a critical situation like this the chief minister was expected to call for an all-party meeting to take everybody into confidence before entering into any kind of settlement with the Maoists.

Instead, the government preferred only two senior officials — home secretary U N Behera and panchayat raj secretary S N Tripathy — to do all the negotiations with the naxalites through the three mediators. The only other top administrator involved in the entire process was chief secretary Bijay Patnaik.

Interestingly, no member of the state cabinet was involved in the negotiation process which has provided enough space to the critics of the BJD government in general and chief minister Patnaik in particular to maintain that the latter had more confidence in his select group of bureaucrats than his own cabinet colleagues.

A section of the observers is also of the view that the haste with which the government conceded to the demands of the Maoists — whom the same government had dubbed as terrorists a few days back besides imposing a ban on their organisation — has affected the morale of the police in a big way. Just days before the kidnapping, the Orissa police with the backing of central forces had successfully launched an anti-naxal drive in the entire state — pushing the red rebels to a corner.

However, there are some in the state who feel that the abduction episode should be treated as a blessing in disguise as it at least exposed the so called support base of the Maoists among the tribals. The manner in which common people in the entire state, particularly in the tribal belt raised their voice against the kidnapping clearly demonstrated the waning popularity of the left wing ultras.

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