Naxalism and Mamta: A Macabre Political Theatre

For Mamta Banerjee, India’s Railway Minister winning the civic polls in Kolkata is more important than security of the vast network of rail tracks of the country particularly that which passes through Maoist dominated territory in Central India. Calling the railway tragedy that has taken 148 lives as, “political conspiracy” she has refused to take moral responsibility and at least offer to resign unlike her colleagues the Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram and the Civil Aviation Minister Mr Praful Patel in the wake of major tragedies under their charter.

The civic polls in Kolkata overshadowed the tragedy at Sardiha in West Bengal where so far 148 passengers of the ill fated Howrah-Kurla Lokmanya Tilak Gyaneshwari Super Deluxe Express have lost their lives in an accident triggered by a Naxal affiliated group, the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA). She refused to name the PCPA or the Maoists as behind the attacks and blamed her political opponents the Communist Party of India Marxists for exploiting the train disaster.

This is a different Mamta Banerjee than the one who resigned from the National Democratic Alliance Government led by Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the Defence Minister then Mr George Fernandes did not take responsibility for the Tehelka expose. Perhaps too much is at stake now.

Underlining her predicament is the larger political theatre in India where inability of the political leadership and the police to firmly nail the Maoists and their network of support groups is leading to more and more violence. As of date 186 people have been killed in Maoists attacks in May alone, more than 26/11 in Mumbai yet the actions taken against the guerrillas do not give any confidence to the masses of the ability of the government to tackle the challenge.

It is now established that the ghastly act was perpetrated by cadres of the PCPA with reports varying from a group called as the Manikpara Lodhasuli militia led by one Umakanta Mahato or some other faction which will be established with further investigation. The PCPA has a history of striking at trains in the past and had held up the Bhubaneswar-Delhi Rajdhani Express at Banstala in West Midnapore for several hours in October 2009.

Possibly the extent of the tragedy was not envisaged by these rebels who wanted to derail the train and cause some minor inconvenience to the passengers. The PCPA has been quick to wash its hands off the incident and has blamed the CPM goons. Given the antipathy evident in the elections in West Bengal for the city councils which are to be followed by the state elections in 2011, the atmosphere is heavily charged up and there is a scope that the Maoists may have exploited this to advantage.

The elections have also provided the perpetrators of the incident and their leaders some good fuel to create confusion and sow the seeds of conspiracy thereby resulting in further anarchy in the state which is already having very low level of governance and high degree of political tensions. Thus the perpetrators would want to benefit from the same.

The Maoist strategy of outsourcing violence to smaller groups is also not a new phenomenon for terrorist and militant groups. The train tragedy in West Bengal appears to be a fall out of the outsourcing done by the Maoists to some local groups who have carried out orders so to say resulting in large number of deaths without possibly applying themselves to the nature of havoc and tragedy they would be causing.

But this does not imply an excuse for the Maoists and they have to take the blame for fostering such groups which has resulted in unprecedented loss of innocent lives. The Maoists as well as the State have to stay within the bounds of control of violence and cannot absolve themselves of responsibility and culpability of such acts when committed by those who may not be wholly and solely a part of the armed action groups but are support groups and thus are equally responsible.

The State police who were obviously aware of the activities of such groups failed to target these so called, “village defence squads” who some officials claimed had assumed the form of a Frankenstein’s monster for the Maoists who have so far distanced themselves from the attack.

Firm politics and firm policing is needed to counter Naxalism instead of political waffling and poor policing. The state will sadly remain oblivious to the plight of its hapless citizens as marauding gangs are ruling the roost over the railway network in Central India.


More by :  Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle

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