Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Seeing red all around

December 17, 2007
First Published: 22:32 IST(17/12/2007)
Last Updated: 22:33 IST(17/12/2007)

Going by the collective venting of outrage in response to the latest Naxal action in Chhattisgarh, it would seem that the Indian-State has pulled out all the stops to counter and snuff out this anti-national menace. Unfortunately, such a response seems to be nothing more than a desperate device to not look helpless in the face of a mounting challenge. On Sunday, the guards at Dantewada jail in Chhattisgarh were attacked and overrun by inmates. Out of the 377 prisoners, 299 escaped, not before looting the armoury. Some 70 of those who escaped were Naxalites or sympathisers of the ultra-Left outfit. Coming as this does two years after Naxalites at Jehanabad in Bihar raided and freed some 137 of their compatriots, our sense of deja vu is marked with the extreme discomfort of not knowing whether the Indian-State will be able to stop the next such attack. In other words, it would seem logical to deduce that the governments — at the Centre or in the states — are not capable of taking on the extremists, not because they lack the wherewithal but because they lack the will.

How else can one explain the weapons provided to the statutory authorities — whether to conduct offensives against the Naxals or to hold them behind bars? Apart from the fact that the Dantewada prison guards and security personnel were armed with .303 rifles and muskets, the Keystone Cops-like behaviour of the various state security forces in the Naxal-affected areas doesn’t make anyone, least of all those who are victims of Naxal rule, feel safer.

Dantewada has been in the news for the district’s pioneering role in the controversial Salwa Judum programme. An overwhelming number of critics have observed that arming locals — again with muskets — and gathering them in specific zones only make them more visible as sitting ducks. The job to tackle the Naxal extremists should be that of the State. The State, in the meantime, wants to fight Naxalites with little arsenal and even less will. As the shadow of Naxal rule expands, so will the governments’ position of vulnerability. It is bad enough that the Government of India has upped and vanished from large swathes of India, leaving them to be taken over by quasi-administrations that work on the twin principles of total submission and sympathy. But what is worse is the Naxalites, whom the Prime Minister had identified as being the prime enemy of national unity, can do what they want, knowing well that the Government of India isn’t really bothered about recovering Indians who today lie outside its pale.

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