Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Can you take them on?

Published May 27, 2013 12:10pm

enter image description hereSaturday’s murderous Naxalite attack in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, in which three senior Congress party leaders and nearly 50 others were either killed or wounded, is a wake-up call for the government.

For some time now, the Congress-led federal government and the state governments, run by different political parties in the country’s large central forest belt, had started believing their rhetoric that they were winning the battle against the Naxalites, as the Indian Maoists are called.

This attack took place in the sprawling Maoist stronghold of Bastar where the State’s presence is confined to a few isolated paramilitary camps. Maoists run a parallel government.

Senior Congress leaders Mahendra Karma and Nand Kumar Patel were shot dead by a large number of armed Naxalites, who cut off the road and were then reported to have engaged in continuous firing on the party convoy heading to Jagdalpur town.

Chhattisgarh state is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is at loggerheads with the Congress politically.

A former central information minister and senior Congress leader, Vidya Charan Shukla (84), was critically injured. Seen with his bloody clothes, Shukla is under treatment in hospital. At least one account says that Shukla was lying wounded till a bunch of reporters reached the site of the attack.

Till late Saturday, it was believed that Chhattisgarh Congress party chief Nandlal Patel and his son had been abducted, but on Sunday morning television channels began reporting that their bodies had been found.

Given that there were no security personnel on the spot to secure the site where Congress leaders and workers were massacred, it’s hardly surprising that the bodies of Patel and his son were found only a day later.

Mahendra Karma has been a Naxalite target for quite a while given that he was instrumental in setting up the Salwa Judum organisation, a government-supported front of armed tribals, to assist in armed operations against the Naxalites.

Formally known as the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the Naxalites are active in the states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and parts of Bihar and West Bengal. They believe in overthrowing the Indian State through armed struggle.

Known for their audacious attacks on security personnel, the Naxalites are known to have a long memory in targeting those who opposed them. In 1993, they killed a senior police officer, K.S. Vyas, in a Hyderabad cricket stadium while he was jogging.

N. Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, narrowly escaped being assassinated by the Naxalites in October 2003.

In 2005, hundreds of armed Maoists descended on Jehanabad jail in Bihar and rescued 250 of their associates. They have attacked security personnel time and again, displaying to the world at large their lethal capabilities.

Though their list of murders and attacks is long, Saturday’s Chhattisgarh massacre is possibly the most high-profile attack staged by the Naxalites ever in terms of going up the political chain.

Last year, the Naxalites kidnapped the Collector of Sukma district in Chhattisgarh, Alex Paul Menon, only to release him after a gruelling 12 days of custody.

In the case of the Congress leaders under attack, they appeared to have no intentions of taking them into custody. They were especially vicious against Mahendra Karma, who was reportedly beaten with rifle butts before being shot several times, eyewitness accounts suggest.

Ashutosh Bhardawaj, Raipur-based reporter for the Indian Express newspaper, said in a piece Sunday that the Naxalite attack came in the wake of the Congress party’s “intensified efforts to reach out to tribal-dominated Bastar (division) in recent months. With Assembly elections due this year, the party’s top brass had been visiting the region regularly...

Whatever may have been the desperation of the Congress in reaching out to the tribals in the five districts of Bastar division, the fact is that basic security protocols have not been followed – all leaders travelling in a single convoy being only one of them.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly described Naxalism as India’s biggest security challenge, but other than the usual brutal, law and order approach, precious little has been done to tackle the Maoists. Given that top Congress leaders have been targeted, India will see high-decibel media coverage for a few days about the menace posed by the Maoists.

Afterwards, it will be business-as-usual. India’s remote war – far away from the big cities of Delhi and Mumbai -- will recede into the background again – till the next attack.

Author Image

Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan. He tweets @abaruah64.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (12) Closed

May 27, 2013 01:17pm

Good Heavens. Is savagery and caste bigotry also catching up in the so-called pristine secular India?

ashutosh mishra
May 27, 2013 03:17pm

Why must they not take revenge when the state representatives have true to their form looted their forests, siphoned off the development funds, which is rampant in the country but gets completely uncontested in naive tribal areas??? Why do they place sincere workers like the selfless doctor in jail who otherwise could have been taken on board to help the tribals, by taking refuge under bureaucratic technicalities. Who is enamored of V C Shukla except his cronies??? If the vacuum persists, someone definitely will enter and once again though in essence won't deliver to the tribals, yet will be seen by them as one of their own challenging the might of the state power which is so remote for the tribals. By creating Salwa Judum etc. did or did not the state unleash a perverse set of its tribal population upon the another set of supposedly Mao following tribals, who in essence are the left radical version of the state sponsored criminalized tribal elements. Under which provision of the Constitution of India was the Salwa Judum founded to fight the left radicals called Maoists??? Isn't this akin to the raising of tribal Lashkars in Pakistan's western border areas to contend with the Tehrik-e-Taliban, which regularly challenges the writ of the Pakistani state??? Well Salwa Judum vigilantes are actually raised in the heartland of India and not on the peripheral areas as in Pakistan. Where from comes the justification of the existence of even the spirit of the Indian Constitution supporting the creation of a private militia bypassing the role of the regular police and paramilitaries in the upholding the rule of the Indian law, along with the simultaneous efforts at understanding the genuine needs of the tribals as normal human beings. Therefore, whether it is the BJP or the Congress, both political parties must accept their failures in the implementation of the development agenda in tribal areas. The chicken are returning home to roost now, in tribal and not so overwhelmingly tribal areas in the information age.Wake up call for those at the helm. Ashutosh Mishra

madhugiri ramesh
May 27, 2013 07:18pm

Naxalite and similar problems in india will not go away as long as corrupt politicians govern the country and the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer.

Harmdas Vedo
May 27, 2013 09:01pm

India is not able to contain her own insurgency while budding in our neighbours affairs through Afghanistan in Balochistan's area.Bitter taste of her own medicine .

May 27, 2013 11:34pm

Maoists could be wiped out within months, if not weeks, if there is political resolve to do so. India has all the expertise, resources and manpower to do so. Some vested interests in echoleans of power in affected states and centre does not want a decisive action against Maoists. They have managed to restraint the action against Maoists at crucial stage. Now since it is political class that came under attack things might change. It is a myth that they are fighting for tribals, the fact is this that they love the gun and enjoy running their govts and do not want to work. Even the roads, hospitals, schools and Industry can be built after annihilation of Maoists.

May 28, 2013 05:44am

Violence must be condemned - Both explicit and the implicit. Both are two sides of the same coin. We are living in a violent socitey. People with money and muscle power are depriving others. Corrupton and nepotism is making the mockery of the rule of law. This is the Implicit violence. To weed out explicit violemce the implicit violence must be dealt with. That is the problem in developing and almost developed countries all over the world. The human being is entitlled to a peaceful non violent world.

May 28, 2013 10:48am

This is an interesting and barbaric act. On one hand, the salwajudum guy is a terrible person, but the maoists are ill advised, ill educated.

if the corrupt want get poor get poorer, and rich get richer, maoists want rich get poorer, and poor get well... what can they get to, with these kind of leaders.

And politicians are corrupt? wake up man, its us who are corrupt. politicians are the best of our society, so they do what we do best, corruption in large scale. :)

May 28, 2013 03:07pm

Please think a minute why kashmiris, Nagas and Maoists are fighting the state government of India. Read what Arundathi Roy an Indian has written about the grievance of the Maoists.

May 28, 2013 06:30pm

I have no sympathy for congressis.Tribals r son of the soil.Congress looted and snatched their land.They never cared for them.BJP is doing good that they r silent on this issue.Congress has to revise its policy.Focus on economic development of tribals else face the consequence.Appeasement policy is not going to work anymore.People r fade up of this.

Naresh sharma
May 28, 2013 09:51pm

Well Done Naxalites.. We Indians are proud of you... we can no longer live under these corrupt politicians.

robby singh
May 29, 2013 06:25am

India treated minorities with opression and torture and still does. non violance never works. good job Naxalites, teach more lessons to government workers and politicians. join hands with china and you will see result quicker. india must break into smaller independent countries.

May 29, 2013 08:13am

Great job maoists, take down the entire UPA order..laal salam

Must read