Desperate action

Desperate action

Abduction appears to have become a preferred weapon in the arsenal of the Maoists.

Close on the heels of the abduction of two Italian nationals, an MLA of the ruling Biju Janata Dal in Odisha was taken hostage.

And now, the collector of Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district, Alex Paul Menon, has been abducted. The string of abductions in the Odisha-Chhattisgarh belt reveals the desperation of the Maoists. Their capacity for taking on the paramilitary forces appears to have diminished significantly thanks to the government’s military operations. Wary now of taking on the armed might of the state, they seem to be turning on civilians.

Hence their abduction of tourists, politicians and bureaucrats. Menon is said to be a
conscientious officer working for the upliftment of the tribals – the very people in whose name the Maoists are saying they wage their armed struggle. So what is their quarrel with Menon? It does seem that Menon’s work among the tribals is eroding their support for the Maoists. It was similar considerations that prompted the Maoists to abduct Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna last year. Contrary to their propaganda that they are fighting corrupt bureaucrats, these are allies of the Maoists’ war.

Responding to abductions is always a tricky issue. Human lives are at stake and hence the government comes under pressure from relatives, the public, etc to give in to the hostage takers’ demands. This has resulted in the Odisha government freeing scores of jailed Maoists to secure the release of the Italians.

However, this has provided incentive to the Maoists to press on with more abductions. The freeing of jailed Maoists is a slap in the face of the police and paramilitary forces who worked hard to put them in jail. It could encourage them to execute the rebels rather than arrest and make them face the due process of law.

Abductions might enable the Maoists to lay bare the helplessness of the State as it buckles to their demands. It helps them get back some of their jailed leaders. Yet the gains are at best temporary. Hostage taking undermines public support. The abduction of Krishna stirred massive anti-Maoist protests last year.

The recent abductions too are said to be unpopular among the tribals.  The Maoists have forgotten that old guerrilla truism:  without the sea of public support, the rebel fish will die. The abductions are not just inhuman, they are counter-productive.

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