Targeting civilians

A deadly attack by Maoists on the Kolkata-Mumbai Gyaneshwari Express has killed over 80 people and injured at least another 200. The tracks were reportedly sabotaged. This caused derailment of 13 carriages of the train at West Midnapore. The derailed coaches were then hit by a goods train running on the opposite track. The Maoist-backed People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) has claimed responsibility for the attack. The PCPA, a tribal forum in Lalgarh, which had for long denied Maoist links, announced that it was turning to armed struggle in October last year. It has made its presence felt as an armed outfit with this horrific attack. The Maoists had called for observance of ‘black week’ in five states, including West Bengal. For the second time in less than a fortnight, the Maoists have launched a major attack on civilians. Last week, they triggered a huge explosion that ripped through a passenger bus in Dantewada, killing scores of people, many of them civilians. In response to criticism then that they were killing innocent people, the Maoists claimed that they had targeted the bus as special police officers (SPOs) were travelling in it. Indeed, several armed SPOs were taking a ride in the passenger bus.

But what is their excuse now for targeting a passenger train? Groups like the PCPA claim to represent the interests of the poorest in the country. But how does an attack on a train, which is the preferred mode of travel of the country’s poor and middle class, improve the latter’s interests? Surely the Maoists realise that by attacking trains and blowing up schools, they are denying ordinary people infrastructure that is already in short supply. The Maoists claim to be fighting injustice. But how does the killing and maiming of innocent people further the cause of justice? Bodies of children were found in the mangled remains of the train. Is this Maoist justice? The Maoists must realise that no cause, however noble it might be, justifies the killing of innocent people.

Intelligence agencies had warned of an attack on a train in Maoist areas. Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has sought to absolve her ministry of responsibility by claiming that since law and order is a state subject, it is the West Bengal government that failed to prevent the sabotage. The minister’s political point-scoring over a tragedy is in poor taste.

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