Talking To The Maoists, Again?
On February 22, though the Maoists initially agreed to release from captivity both the Malkangiri District Collector and the junior engineer, later on they retracted and have freed only Majhi, the engineer. The ultras have placed more demands to free the bureaucrat. The Maoists are continuing with their tantrums.
In the evening of February 16, a young bureaucrat and a junior engineer paid the price of being too honest and probably too fearless. The collector of Malkangiri district in Odisha was generally used to roaming around in his area of jurisdiction on a motorcycle and that too, without proper security. It is not only a bit, but quite unusual for a District Collector to be a maverick of this genre. And quite expectedly, he faced the consequences.
The popular collector and the engineer were kidnapped by a bunch of pro-poor(?), ‘robinhood-type’ hoodlum Maoists. Following the modus operandi of the cross-border Taliban-esque terrorists, the Maoists placed their list of demands which necessarily contained the release of a couple of their top leaders. The Government of Odisha reacted, no doubt, in an ordinary, predictable and characteristic fashion as had happened quite often in the past: from releasing terrorists in return for the daughter of a high-profile politician in Jammu and Kashmir to the release of a terrorist-mastermind in return of airplane hostages in the late nineties.
On Tuesday, February 22, a top Maoist Sriramulu Srinivasulu was granted bail by a local court in Odisha. Though he got bail only in one case and four more criminal cases were pending against him, it is to be noted that the legacy of ‘releasing in return’ was re-initiated. Furthermore, the Odisha government initiated ‘talks’ with the Maoists to seek release of the concerned officers. Ironically, it is the Maoists who nominated the three ‘interlocutors’.
State Home secretary UN Behera said that the government has agreed to follow due process of law to withdraw cases against five Maoists, including Ganti Prasadam and Padma, wife of top Naxal leader Ramakrishna. The government also agreed that no coercive action will be taken by the security forces as long as the Maoists do not indulge in unlawful activities. But the Maoists, by definition, are a banned outfit!
Behera was however ambivalent on the release of Asutosh Sen, Sriramulu Srinivasulu, Gananath Patra and Jiban Bose, central committee members of the Maoists.
Well, this seems to be a season of ‘talks’ and compromises. And it is not only in India that ‘talks’ are taking place.
After an ‘aborted’ attempt in Sri Lanka, the Norwegian peace brokers are in the news once again. On 15 February, the Philippine government and Maoist rebels sat down for their first formal peace talks in more than six years. The negotiations are taking place in the Oslo suburb of Nesbru. These are aimed at ending an insurgency that commenced in the late 1960s.
Coincidentally, on 12 February, few days before the Filipino rebels sat down with their authorities, Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh said that his government would not hesitate to consider any proposal for peace talks with the Indian Maoists.
THE STRIKING ABDUCTION
“We are facing serious water scarcity and other problems, why don’t you visit our area sir”. This was what the local residents told to the Collector during his whirlwind tour to the cut-off region and Ravella Vineel Krishna, the unsuspecting District Magistrate of Malkangiri in Orissa, who was actively involved in the village contact programmes, incidentally walked into the Maoist trap on February 16, 2011 near Jantapai village. If the Intelligence inputs have of any significance, then the Maoists made use of the local people to lure the young IAS officer into their trap during his visit to the cut-off region on the day.
The 2005 batch IAS officer, R Vineel Krishna, was born and brought up in Hyderabad and completed B Tech in Civil Engineering from IIT Madras in 2001. With a brilliant academic career he topped in the UPSC-sponsored Union Civil Services Examination from Andhra Pradesh and bagged 28th rank in IAS. The young IAS officer, who joined as the District Magistrate of Malkangiri on December 31, 2009, was abducted along with Junior Engineer by the Maoists on February 16 near Janatapi village in the cut-off region of Malkangiri district. The members of Andhra-Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee of the Maoists probably led by one Prasad held the duo for ransom while they were coming back after attending a Public Relation Camp. The abduction took place around 10 km away from Andhra Pradesh border at Badapada village near Chitrakonda reservoir.
While the Collector was accompanied by Rural Water Supply & Sanitation block coordinator Ranjan Das, Integrated Tribal Development Agency JEs Damodar Suchen and Pabitra Mohan Majhi from Jantapai village at about 5.00 pm on the day, around 20 left-wing extremists armed with sophisticated weapons intercepted their bikes. The rebels asked none but R Vineel Krishna about his identity. When Krishna introduced himself, the rebels took him as hostages along with Majhi and allowed others to go back with a letter that the Collector was abducted. The ultras in their letter had first set a 48- hour deadline to concede their two conditions for the release of Collector Krishna that included halting of anti-Maoist operations in the area and the release of all Maoists arrested in the past. But, the list became a lengthy one with the inclusion of more demands by the Maoist rebels with a motive for good bargaining. The abduction happened two days before the Home Minister P Chidambaram had scheduled a video conference with the district magistrates of 60 districts affected by the Maoist violence.
Within hours of the abduction, Odisha Home Secretary Upendra Nath Behera announced the halting of all “anti-Maoist operation” in the state and established contact with the two Hyderabad-based interlocutors Prof H Hargopal and Prof R Someswar Rao, appointed by the Maoists for a dialogue with the Maoist rebels from back channel to get the abducted District Magistrate and Junior Engineer released. As Krishna and Majhi spent the third day in captivity, the two mediators handpicked by Maoists arrived at the Biju Pattnaik Airport in Bhubaneswar on February 20 at about 10:00 am and they straight went to the state guesthouse to participate in the negotiation process. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and the two interlocutors first appealed to the rebels to give some more time and in response the 48-hour deadline for fulfilment of their demands was extended by Maoists.
The moment the two interlocutors arrived in the sate guesthouse, talks started between the two Odisha government officials consisting of Home Secretary, UN Behera and Secretary, Panchayati Raj, SN Tripathy and human rights activists G Hargopal and Prof R Someswar Rao. Coming under pressure from the CPI (Maoist) the state government also accepted Dandapani Mohanty as the third interlocutor for the peace talk to end the impasse. Soon after the three-day-long marathon between both sides came to end on February 22, the interlocutors and representatives of Odisha government came out with a joint press statement in the evening. “We express our satisfaction at the outcome of the three-day-long talk,” said G Hargopal, adding that the mediators were working on the modalities for the hostages’ release in the next 48 hours.
The announcement came after state Home Secretary UN Behera and Panchayati Raj Secretary SN Tripathy held talks with the negotiators Dandapani Mohanty and academicians G Hargopal and R Someswar Rao at the state guesthouse in Bhubaneswar for hours. “We have agreed on all 14 issues,” Home Secretary UN Behera told the media persons. “Now that all issues have been resolved, the mediators have given us a firm commitment on the safe return of the Collector and junior engineer,” he further said.
The Maoists, in a letter to the government, listed their demands for the safe release of the two hostages. These included halting anti-Maoist operations by security forces, release of all political prisoners, scrapping of accords with MNCs for land transfer and projects, and compensation for the families of Maoist sympathizers killed in police custody. The government stopped anti-Maoist operation on February 17 and agreed to their 14 demands, mostly relating to human rights violations and displacement by various development projects, Behera informed.
Interlocutors concluded talks in Bhubaneshwar and announced that the Collector would be released within 48 hours. But word spread that Krishna had already been released and was on his way back home. A large crowd of supporters gathered outside his house in Malkangiri town. The Collector’s father Ram Babu emerged from the bungalow and thanked the media and the people for their overwhelming support. But as night faded into day, so did hopes of an early release. At 2.00 pm in the afternoon, a packed boat left the shore across the reservoir. As it neared, in the crowds, a man stood out, quizzically wearing a red helmet. He turned out to be Pabitra Majhi, the junior engineer. He had been set free by the Maoists on February 23, 2011, apparently not too far from where he had been abducted. Majhi was frisked away by local officials as soon as he alighted from the boat. The red helmet was perhaps meant to keep his identity hidden.
The ride from Jantapai village to Chitrakonda was probably the longest that the junior engineer Pabitra Majhi had ever taken in his life. In the last seven days, he had seen the worst. And, he was happy to be back. Majhi recounted how a group of armed Maoist cadres came and abducted Collector R Vineel Krishna and him from near Janatapai.
They were taken to a temporary Maoist camp after walking for more than 5 km through hilly terrain. Majhi said they had to change places thrice while in captivity. Both the Collector and the JE were kept at one place. The Maoists did not ill-treat the hostages who were given the meal of ‘rice’ and ‘dal’ in time. Majhi dismissed reports of the Collector being ill and said he was alright and in good condition. Some of the top Maoist leaders who were in the camp discussed various demands for the release of Krishna and Majhi.‘‘But I was hopeful of my release from the way they were talking and their behaviour,’’ Majhi said. The junior engineer had to walk about 4-5 km to reach near Jantapai village accompanied by 10-20 armed Maoist cadres. The Maoists promised Majhi that the Collector would be set free at any time before the 48-hour deadline.
In Malkangiri town, speaking with reporters, Majhi said he had been treated well. “I have been told that the Collector would be released within 48 hours.” Twenty-four hours had passed, but there was still no sign of Krishna. The district administration and the police claimed they were clueless. While the hostage crisis is partly over and the government is a little bit relaxed after the release of the junior engineer Pabitra Majhi on February 23, it was not clear what was holding up the Collector Krishna: logistics or a last minute glitch in the backroom negotiations?
As expectations rose for the immediate release of hostages, Maoists released only Majhi, but not the Collector Krishna. Taking a U-turn from their earlier promise of releasing the Collector RV Krishna during the next 24 hours, the Left ultras demanded that the negotiators physically come to the cut-off region to secure the release of Krishna while issuing seven other new demands, which further complicated the process. However, the next evening the Collector was released after the arrival of the two interlocuters in Malkangiri, something that was demanded by the Maoists. It is not known whether any extra concessions were made by the government that was conveyed by the interlocutors to the Maoists for the Collector’s eventual release.
If the whole hostage episode right from the day one is examined, then the Maoists have definitely taken the upper hand by making a hard bargain with the Odisha government to release top leaders like Ghanti Prasad, Sriramulu Srinivasulu, Padma alias Seerisha wife of Ramakrishna and many other frontline leaders. The Orissa High Court granted bail to Ghanti Prasad on February 23, 2011, due to lack of any evidence against him. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen as to how the Odisha government handles the contentious Maoist demands like the release of about 700 ‘tribals’, withdrawal of BSF and CRPF from Malkangiri and Koraput districts. Truely speaking, it would definitely be a tough task for Odisha government while working within a legal framework.
By Kishor Dash from Malkangiri
Interestingly on that very day, sharing the same dais, social activist Swami Agnivesh even appealed to both the government and the Maoists to opt for a 72-hour ceasefire to facilitate a peace process.
In fact, this has been the standard programme on offer by Agnivesh and other like-minded activists so as to defuse tension in India’s hinterland which has been causing turbulence since 1967, a period quite similar to the insurgency in Philippine. According to Agnivesh and others, the peace process probably could have shaped up, but was abruptly halted when reports of death of the Maoist spokesperson Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad surfaced in the first week of July, last year.
Last year, in a letter to Swami Agnivesh, Azad had stated his party’s intentions of holding talks with the government. However, he was skeptical regarding the commitment of the Union government. He felt that the Home Ministry was probably trying to create a veneer of ‘talks’.
There were counter-allegations as well from New Delhi regarding the non-serious approach of the Maoists towards settling the bloodshed through deliberations. As a matter of fact, the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram responding to a ceasefire offer by Maoists by issuing a statement on February 22, 2010: “I would like no ifs, no buts and no conditions for talks.”
The Maoists had then sought for a conditional ceasefire; asking the government to halt the paramilitary offensive against them for 72 days and involve suitable mediators for talks.
Naturally, the pertinent question at this juncture is that after a year, have both the government and the left-wing ultras mellowed down their approach? More importantly, the governments of two states: Chhattisgarh and Odisha seem to be kowtowing in front of the Maoists. They suspended their searching and combing operations as per the demands of the leftist-ultras.
“The Abduction Episode Would Not Affect Credibility of Movement” —Var Vara Rao
Speaking to Uday India Correspondent Kishor Dash over phone, the Hyderabad-based Maoist ideologue Var Vara Rao threw light on the ‘peace dialogue’ held between the interlocutors and Odisha government which resulted into a truce acceptable to both the sides. He replied to various queries. Excerpts;
What was the demand of the Maoists to secure the release of Malkangiri District Magistrate R Vineel Krishna and Junior Engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi?
The Maoist, wanted the government to concede all the 14-point demands, like the release of about 700 tribal prisioners from different jails and leaders like Srinivas alias Sudhir, Ghanti Prasad, Asutosh Soren, Tapan Mishra, Padma wife of Ramakrishna, Subhashree Panda wife of Sabyasachi Panda, Eswari, Gananath Patra and others.
In fact, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between both the sides, in which the Odisha government has agreed on all 14 issues and a two-member committee consisting of Professor Radhamohan and a senior journalist K Sudhakar Pattnaik has been constituted to look into the release of all the ‘adivasi’ people languishing in different jails in the state in connection with land and other issues. The process is likely to start from Malkangiri within next 15 days in the first phase followed by Koraput and other districts in the next phase and would be completed within three months.
Do you think that the negotiation could have yielded a better result had the Chief Minister and his other cabinet colleagues participated in it?
Certainly. But, unlike Andhra Pradesh where the Maoits always wanted the involvement of the politicians whenever there was a face-to-face negotiation, here the leaders suggested the participation of the interlocutors to end the impasse.
Are you sure that all the leaders including the Maoists would be released on bail?
I think so. See while the Orissa High Court has already granted bail to Maoist leader Ghanti Prasad, a fast track court in Malkangiri has also acquitted the Maoist leader Sriramulu Srinivasulu in one case and his bail petition in connection with a 2005 case is likely to be taken up for hearing in the court of Additional District and Session Judge there soon. The bail process for others like Padma and Eswari is on. The government has assured that the public prosecutors may not oppose the bail petition of the leaders during hearing in the different courts.
To add this, the government has also agreed to withdraw cases against the leaders on merit basis.
How would you like to react to the allegation made by the common people that the credibility of the Maoist movement has been affected following the abduction of the District Magistrate R Vineel Krishna who had been to a cut-off region to interact with the tribal people in a public relation camp held on February 16 at Badapada? Do you think that the incident would have a negative impact on the tribal people whom the Maoists claim as their sympathisers?
Krishna, the District Magistrate of Malkangiri, whom the administrative officials claim to be the pro-people. The CPI (Maoist) also says that it is fighting for the poor and the tribal people. Let the intelligentsia, academicians and rights activists evaluate the things.
Further, I don’t think that the abduction episode would affect the credibility of the movement.
It may be that Raman Singh’s recent declaration was in resonance with the gesture shown by the ultras in releasing a group of abducted jawans in Chhattisgarh after a period of 18 days. The interesting part was that the jawans were not ill-treated by the Maoists at all. Nevertheless, this was basically possible as Chhattisgarh agreed to suspend search and combing operation for 48 hours. The amusing aspect was the rebels had sought suspension of operations for only 24 hours.
What can thus be gleaned from the behaviour of both the parties in this low-intensity conflict? Is this mere rhetoric on the part of Raman Singh that he is agreeable to ‘peace talks’? Or is this a sign of ‘war fatigue’ for both the sides? Or do both the sides want to erect a façade of ‘talks’ to buy more time?
Going back to the Filipino case, the government and the Maoist-guerrillas have been involved in ‘stop-start’ negotiations for the last 25 years; without any concrete result however. In the meantime, the fighting has consumed close to 40,000 lives.
HELD TO RANSOM
By Anil Dhir from Bhubaneswar
The Collector R Vineel Krishna is well known for his pro-poor work and is a civil servant with a conscience. His work with the poor and the downtrodden has led to those whom he served protesting against his abduction by the Maoists. In the whole week that the abduction drama unfolded, the Chief Minister and the BJD leadership were conspicuous by their absence. The whole crisis was handled by a couple of bureaucrats sitting at the secretariat. Even the DG of Police Manmohan Praharaj and the ADG Operations Sanjib Marik who is heading the anti-maoist operations in the state were mute spectators. The top brass was huddled together like a group of headless chickens while the electronic media were fighting for TRP’s with live repetitive coverage from ground zero. The experts, both the hawks and the doves, all raved and ranted, putting forth their theories which in most cases were pathetic.
The opposition parties, both the Congress and the BJP were quick to react that there was more then what meets the eye. The fourteen demands put forth by the Maoists read like a wish list made by a junior level official. The government went overboard in announcing that they had agreed to eight of the fourteen demands, but a quick reading of the list shows that no left minded maoists group, which had the government against the wall would put forth such vague and obscure demands besides the demand for the release of their jailed comrades.
“There have been altogether 14 demands we have discussed in the last two days. Out of that we have been able to resolve eight demands, on the basis of specific government decisions, some in the past and some now,” said Orissa Home Secretary U N Behera in a press conference. The immediate suspension of all combing operations all over the state set the tone of the further negotiations. The government blinked first, and then had to agree to every term that was set by the abductors which included the choice of interlocutors and the release of Ganti Prasadam and other maoists.
The demand for the release of two hard core maoists Sheela and Padma on grounds of their ill health is something not for the Odisha government to decide. Both are lodged in jails in Jharkhand and Chattisgarh respectively, and it is unlikely that the state governments will agree to release them.
The granting of Scheduled Tribe status for the Konda Reddy and Nukadora communities, both of which have minuscule presence in the state was another demand that has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
The demand of the Maoists for stopping the multi-purpose Polavaram project of Andhra Pradesh is laughable. It is a well known fact that the State government has already gone to the Supreme Court against this project and filed a case against the Central Water Commission and the Government of India. Another demand for granting Pattas to the tribal dispossessed in Koraput and Malkangiri too seems rather far fetched for the red group. The demand for Irrigation in Maribada and Maniamkonda villages in Malkangiri makes on think that the group who abducted the officials are politicians thinking about their own constituency.
The other demands of implementation of the relevant laws for mining operations in Mali and Deomali bauxite mines and that of minimum displacement of tribals and granting of adequate compensation seem to be more as demands from some NGO or pressure group and not hardcore armed militants. The only demand that seemed worthy to come from the Maoists was for stopping Operation Greenhunt, the release of their jailed comrades and compensation based on High Court order to Tadangi Gangulu and Ratanu Sirika who died of third degree police torture. The rest seemed a wish lit of the BJD Party manifesto.
The Home Secretary UN Behera and Panchayat Raj Secretary SN Tripathy held the four rounds of talks for hours with the negotiators—Dandapani Mohanty and academicians G Haragopal and R Someswar Rao in the state guest house at Bhubaneswar. Dandapani Mohanty said the he hoped the government will take steps for the release of 629 ‘innocent’ people languishing in various jails as they had not committed any crimes and were booked on false charges.
The Junior Engineer was released on the afternoon of the 23rd. The Collector’s fate is still uncertain, with a fresh demand coming from the Maoists that their jailed brethren be sent to them accompanied by the interlocutors before they would release the Collector. The senior minister of the BJD, Surya Narayan Patro went on record to say that the Government was well aware of the whereabouts and conditions of the collector, and that appropriate action was being taken. It is strange that the Chief Minister did not even call for an all party meet nor a cabinet meet to discuss the crisis. Maybe Naveen is still harping on the dictum of “the law will take its own course”.
Meanwhile, the people of the state are on a wing and a prayer for the safe release of the Collector. While going to the press, the bureaucrats and interlocutors are both a perplexed lot and the fate of the Collector still hangs in uncertainty.
In a seminal work titled: How Insurgencies End, published by RAND Corporation in 2010, researchers Ben Connable and Martin Libicki have shown with the help of statistical data that the longer an insurgency lasts, the more likely the government is to win.
In tune with this finding, it may be stated that the state-actors would generally benefit if a low-intensity insurgency lasts long. Moreover, until the rebellion spills into major towns and cities, the danger from an insurgency to the security of the nation-state is not really significant.
Even in the Indian context, it would be noteworthy to remember that the ‘talks’ between the Maoists and the provincial government of Andhra Pradesh was carefully utilised by the latter to discern information about the radical outfit’s top brass. And finally it was the two-pronged attack of the elite Greyhound force along with the agenda of development, which paved the way for the victory of state forces in Andhra. As if to corroborate this, a senior Filipino insurgent was arrested on the eve of the February 15 talks near Oslo.
Bringing the guerrillas to the negotiating table is always accompanied by the danger of letting them regroup. But it won’t be unwise to talk to the ultras from a ‘position of strength’. At present, the government does have a psychological advantage though. The Indian Army has been given a green signal to set up a training base in the Abujhmad area of Chhattisgarh. This is the epicenter of Maoist activity in India and such a move must have had its impact on the rebels.
But the present crisis generated by the Indian Maoists has taken away some part of that advantage from the government. The abduction of an officer belonging to the elite Indian Administrative Services (IAS) in the Malkangiri district of Odisha in effect is a pointer to the fact that the rebels are not genuinely interested in ‘talks’. They are just tracing the well-tested path of kidnapping to get their demands met. In such a situation, doesn’t it project a weak face of the government to come to the negotiating table and release members of the banned outfit?
In these circumstances, it needs to be observed whether the Indian policymakers take up the Filipino formula or go ahead with the ‘successful’ Sri-Lankan brute force methodology to quell the Maoist insurgency. It can be added that even in Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been dealt strongly by the government through focused counter-insurgency operations and the results have been positive.
THE MAOIST MENACE
If we take into consideration the burgeoning clouts of the left extremists in the rural pockets of India and if the recent examples that have upset Odisha are any indication, the Maoists are conspicuous by their presence in the fledging industrial township of the state. The reason is simple. The main reason behind the Maoist-related happenings is the incessant exploitation of the masses by the government officials (read bureaucrats). The poor inhabiting in these areas are used to the atrocities by the administration, and of course its chief anchor, the police. The kidnapping of an important officer, a part and parcel of this callous system, has obviously put the administration in a tight spot. The very people at the helm of affairs, however, did not bother when home guards, political workers at the grassroot level and small landholders were brutally murdered.
The kidnapping of R Vineel Krishna, the District Collector (DC) of Malkangiri and Kudumuluguma block JE Pabitra Majhi has become an eye opener for the otherwise insensitive administration. Their release became, and rightly so, the concern at all levels. The incident was followed by staging of peace processions, yajnas and signature campaigns throughout the state. As the chief authority, the DC was supposed to know well all the nooks and corners in the area; so which spots he visited and why during the evening hours is beyond one’s knowledge. (Your guess is as good as mine.) As the events have unfolded and raised sympathy waves, our readers might not like to savour ‘caustic remarks’.
It is an open secret that the Maoist rule has been established in more than half of the districts of Odisha. On the other hand, the way the left wing extremist of Andhra Pradesh has taken a brutal form could have been avoided in Odisha. There have been numerous examples in history where the higher-ranked police officers, MLAs, MPs and other administrators in Hyderabad had been abducted and murdered. Their police had been killing many suspected left wing extremists in the name of ‘encounter.’ However, in Odisha, during the firing both the police and the left wing extremists were getting injured or ever dying. But in no circumstances captives were being killed. For instance, last year in the month of July ASI Umesh Marandi was abducted from Daitari police station and he was freed after ten days. A substantial change has been noticed, however, in the attitude of the state police in the recent chain of events. The general public has perceived that in the last few months the police have been involved in some irregularities in the guise of exchange of fire with the extremists. To name a few, recently a 12-year-old girl was murdered in Tamka in Jajpur district, claiming her to be an extremist among the five dead during the encounter. Public knows that Maoists never induct anyone less than 18 years of age in a fully armed cadre. The police have tried their best to take the credit of encountering Maoists by declaring the dead bodies of civilians in Sundergarh and Rayagada districts. There are no clear rules of engagement against the Maoists by Odisha police which results in left wing extremists beginning to cross the limits. The Maoists are clever enough to work on their publicity in electronic media with some select journalists and at the same time they were able to kidnap a district collector in broad daylight. It seems as if social changes are no longer their main agenda behind the war but there is something sinister in it. It is a fact that there is no governance visible in the tribal areas. There is a complete systemic failure. As no place remains vacant for a longer period of time, the Maoists have come to replace the government (?). At the grassroots level the Maoists are making sure that the tribals get the actual price of the jungle products in the market. It is pleasing the tribals for sure. This kind of justice was never there at the grassroots level. Steps like this are securing the increasing presence of the Maoists in village after village. The innocent villagers of those areas are ignorant about their real purpose. The uncalled for tortures heaped upon the wives and the relatives of the Maoists leaders have yielded no fruits whatsoever. This has resulted in annoying the Maoists at the personal level which in turn may result in zero tolerance.
However, and it is an irony, we are also aware of the fact that due to the hard work and unacknowledged efforts of our Odisha police, many of whose personnel have put their lives under threat, today many areas have still remained unaffected and the literate mass are able to lead a normal life. But now a question arises after the abduction of the IAS officer in Malkangiri district that how long can this situation prevail? We all pray for the safe return of the officers of the Malkangiri district. It can be said that the powers of the state government could be tested under this circumstance. Further, it became evident that the officers could go on processions and protest marches for their Collector. But, for ordinary citizens there is no such systemic procedure to empower them under similar situation.
While Maoists are being released under one pretext or the other, the steps taken by the administration have telling effects on our armed forces. We have a lot of sympathy for the beleagured collector, R Vineel Krishna. However the way the government handled the issue is extremely dangerous. By bowing to the demands of the Maoists, the government has indirectly encouraged the Maoists and antisocial groups to commit further crimes. This precedent has given fire to the speculations that if somebody kidnaps Rahul Gandhi and demands the release of Afjal Guru and Kasab, then possibly the government will give in to their demands. Even today, leaders like Sushma Swaraj and Sonia Gandhi are paying homage to the martyrs of the Parliament attack in December 13th every year. By doing so they are assuming that their work is over and they are also drawing a lot of solace in that. No one notices the real problems and nobody seems to be interested in solving them. The most disheartening fact remains that there is no one interested to hang Guru even after the upholding of his death sentence by honorable Supreme Court. Everything is in a chaotic state.
The judicial system in our country is on the verge of collapse. Acquittals in murder cases have become a rule rather than an exception. Prevailing trends of existing systems confirm ‘might is right’ policy is in operation in our country. If those Maoists and terrorists will be set free, for whom our armed forces have shed a lot of blood, then it is natural that they will be highly disappointed. If the current trend goes on then in future no policeman or jawan will ever risk his life to capture any Maoist. Systemic failures are so rampant that it is as good as nonexistent. There is complete anarchy in the administration. Whereas in some places political pressures act as a clog in the wheel of administration, elsewhere the corrupt mentality of bureaucrats has crippled the administrative system. The gainers of such a deadlock are the antisocial and criminal elements.
On one hand we were praying for the long life of Malkangiri district collector Krishna, while on the other hand, there may be a creation of an interesting situation where all IAS officers can be abducted, given a fair opportunity. In this backdrop, it is a grave concern for the entire nation that even the IAS officers of India cannot live in peace. It is harmful for the country if the administrators fail to handle the situation with intelligence and care. Needless to say that those IAS officers who are aware of the danger of being abducted may keep themselves away from official tours or significant decision making process.
By Tathagat Satpathy
The author is a Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) representing Biju Janata Dal
On the other hand, the Indian Maoist leaders must appreciate that scores of Adivasis cannot simply be sacrificed at the altar of ideology. And furthermore, picking up honest officers, who want to work for the masses surely would turn out to be counter-productive for them. The reason is simple. The Maoists feed on the Adivasis and the poor. That is, the more hapless and poor the Adivasis become, the more fertile would be the recruitment ground for the Indian Maoists. The kidnapping of the IAS officer in Odisha has given rise to mass protests against the Maoists, which in essence is what the Maoists detest. On the contrary, the state forces shall relish such blunders by the Maoists in the ongoing counter-insurgency warfare.
By Uddipan Mukherjee