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Congress must atone for misadventure

Congress must atone for misadventure

Author: Sidharth Mishra
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: June 15, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/183036/Congress-must-atone-for-misadventure.html

The spate of violence unleashed last week by the Naxalites in Centrally-governed state of Jharkhand should be enough, I suppose, to shake the government out of stupor. Over two dozen police personnel have lost their lives in the murderous attacks by the Maoist elements.

Reading the Jharkhand violence story with the Bokaro Steel City dateline signifies that the Maoists are no longer restricted in their movement to the inhospitable terrains of the dense forests but are lurking on the outskirts of the industrial townships. Bokaro houses country's first steel plant, built with maximum indigenous content in terms of equipment, material and know-how. Started in 1965 it became fully functional in 1978. After modernization in 1990s, the plant's capacity has been upgraded to 4.5 MT of liquid steel. Bokaro Steel is believed to be working towards becoming a one-stop-shop for world-class flat steel in India.

But with the Maoists laying a siege of the Steel City, the plans of this major plant may just go awry. It's unthinkable that the Maoists are on the prowl around the Steel City, which till the other day was showcased as a model of urban town planning.

On Friday last over 100 members including women of an outlawed outfit attacked the State Bank of India branch in Phusro market. Two policemen were killed on the spot when they tried to resist the attack. The heavily armed extremists first attacked the bank with bombs and then the women cadre looted four Insas rifles from the police.

Later in a knee-jerk reaction when the police personnel tried to strike back they fell into the trap laid by the Naxal with their armoured vehicle blown to smithereens. The attack in Bokaro was not an isolated case but part of a series of attacks in the industrial districts of Chaibasa and Bokaro.

These attacks are different from the regular assaults in the backward Palamau division of the state, which has completely been converted into a 'liberated land'. This is for the first time that the Naxals have dared to attack an internationally acclaimed industrial township. What has really emboldened them to strike the way they are doing now?

Naxalites are striking in Jharkhand at will because there is no resistance from the state machinery. Politically too, except for the BJP, there is no attempt at countering the spread of Red terror.

In fact mainstream parties like the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha are giving tickets to Naxal-sponsored candidates in the polls. In the last Lok Sabha elections a Maoists commander in incarceration won the Palamau seat on the JMM ticket.

The Naxalites have got emboldened because the Congress allowed Madhu Koda-led UPA government in power for over a year overlooking the fact that Koda was in no position to counter the threat of the Left insurgents. During these vital months, Koda followed a non-aggression policy towards the Naxalites. While this move helped him to buy peace for sometime, it also helped the ultra-Left factions to regroup and emerge stronger.

Today the writ of the Naxalites runs across Jharkhand. The presence of the Central para-military forces is no deterrent here. Last week CRPF jawans too got killed in the encounters with the Maoists.

During the poll campaign less than 20 kilometres away from the public meeting of Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Khunti, from where Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha Karia Munda has been elected, Maoists engaged a CRPF company in a pitched battle in which five jawans lost life. The Naxalite casualty was just about three. This too in a time when the Special Protection Group had sanitized the whole area. The odds here are definitely in favour of the Naxalites.

What's the way out. The Congress must salvage the backward state from the red marshland. With President's rule in force, the Centre is in a position to intervene directly and tackle the situation. Instead of assuaging its allies like JMM and foist another lame duck government, the Congress leadership must show the resolve to fight the terror mongers.

It's not an insurmountable task. Government of Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh have shown the resolve and put the Naxalites on the back foot.

The Government of Uttarakhand despite sharing borders with Nepal has been able to check the entry of Maoist elements in the hill state with close monitoring of the porous borders.

If the state governments can do it, certainly the Centre too can act. Or else there are already reports of the Maoists finding safe havens for them even in the national capital and its suburbs.

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