No mercy

Yesterday morning, Naxalites – terrorists – murdered 15 policemen in Gadchiroli district, not too far from Nagpur, in Vidarbha, Maharashtra. And to top it all, they engaged in an act of barbarism reminiscent of the mutilation and torture of Indian soldiers by Pakistan during Kargil (’99)-

In the most gruesome Naxal atrocity in the history of the state, Naxals not only gunned down 15 policemen, including a subinspector, but also beheaded and dismembered their bodies. The incident took place in the jungles of Markegaon village in Dhanora tehsil of Gadchiroli district on Sunday.

A short-range patrol of 14 policemen from Gyrapatti police armed outpost is learnt to have fought valiantly against more than 100 Naxals for oneand-a-half hours before their ammunition dried up. The brutal outlaws then chased the surviving cops, taking their own time in killing them one by one with medieval cruelty. An eyewitness told police said that the Naxals kicked around the decapitated heads and other body parts of their victims. The Naxals also booby-trapped the bodies of the dead policemen with explosives after the encounter. The highly mutilated bodies could be retrieved only after defusing the explosives.

Two days back, Naxalites across the border, in Chhatisgarh, had offered to “talk” to that government

In a significant development, outlawed CPI-Maoist, which has been launching attacks in Chhattisgarh for the last several years, has expressed willingness to hold “peace talks” with the state government.

Issuing a press statement, Pandu, a spokesperson of Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) said the outfit wanted to initiate talks with the Chhattisgarh government.

He, however, made it clear that “it (talks) would only be possible if the government reciprocates with proactive initiatives to this effect.”

“The state government must stop oppression of the tribal and take necessary steps to create an atmosphere for mutual trust to start the peace-talk process,” the Maoist leader said.

Nothing of that sort must be done. The “Maoists” are not misguided souls who are fighting for the oppressed. They are terrorists whose ideology has no place for individual rights, or for dissent, and are far worse than the government they are trying to “overthrow.” Unfortunately, the Indian State still tackles this problem, as also outfits like the ULFA, with kid gloves – talking to them – legitimizing them in the process. In 2004, Maoists in Andhra Pradesh tried to blow up the then Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu using a land mine. He survived, but his successor YS Rajasekar Reddy decided that a cease-fire would be a great idea, and let the terrorists arm themselves while the police twiddled their thumbs for eight long months. Better sense prevailed, but as Ajai Sahni says about the tactics used to fight them, “a historical amnesia, a near-complete absence of institutional memory, appears to afflict the Indian security establishment, despite the country’s vast experience in counter-insurgency campaigns.”

Home Minister Chidambaram does not believe that a national policy to tackle this “menace” is necessary. That is a good position to take as long as he works towards bringing the states on a single page, and that’s because law and order is, and should always remain, a state subject.

Whatever tactics are followed, no mercy must be shown as far as the Naxalites are concerned. They either go to prison for life, or they die in the jungles – there must be no third alternative.

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