Heed the message

If the aim of ‘Operation Green Hunt’ is to undermine the Maoists and their capacity for violence, then the operations are an abysmal failure so far. An ambush of CRPF personnel by Maoists in Dantewada on Tuesday — the biggest attack to date — left over 75 of them dead. Two days earlier, a landmine blast in Koraput killed 11 jawans of the anti-Maoist special operations group. Barbaric as these incidents are, the attacks have sent out a clear message.

Far from weakening the Maoists or deterring them, the massive military operations being carried out in central and eastern India seem to be provoking them to carry out more frequent and ferocious attacks. Experience in India and elsewhere has shown that choosing the military option to address an insurgency only serves to militarise the problem and escalates the level of violence. Home minister P Chidambaram has responded to the attacks in Koraput and Dantewada by describing the Maoists as cowards and savages. His name-calling serves no purpose. His bluster is unimpressive.

Instead the government would do well to heed the message from the attacks, rethink strategy and change course. Persisting with military operations against the Maoists is not quelling the violence. It is exacting a huge human toll. Proponents of the military option will claim that the operations will take time to yield results. How long must one wait for results? How many lives will have to be sacrificed before these results are achieved? And what are the results that the government is seeking to achieve?

If it is to eliminate Maoists so that it can address tribal grievances it is going about it the wrong way. Only genuine talks can provide a solution to the problem. Chidambaram has mocked the Maoists for hiding in the forests, when the government has offered them talks. If the government is serious about talks why did it not take forward the Maoists recent ceasefire offer? Why did it lay down conditions for talks?

Clearly, the lack of development and the grabbing of tribal lands for so-called industrialisation are some of the pressing issues and the government needs to find a humane and equitable solution. Expecting rebels, especially those who have not been defeated, to lay down arms and surrender their cards before they come to the negotiating table is an absurd expectation. Surely, the home minister is aware of this simple logic.

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