It is difficult to tell on which side the truth is on the Bijapur operation in which the Chhattisgarh police and the CRPF killed 20 persons, who they claim were Maoists. It appears from media reports that the police and the CRPF actually converged for an anti-Maoist operation. It is unlikely that six security personnel, who were injured in the operation, would have shot one another as claimed by a villager. The Opposition in the State is trying to gain political mileage from the operation.
The region is heavily Maoist-infested. It is, therefore, not possible to believe the claim made by the villagers blindly. It is almost clear that the CRPF and police personnel engaged in a genuine counter-insurgency operation. The only issue that needs to be investigated is whether the villagers’ claim that young girls were sexually assaulted is true. If yes, stringent action should be taken against the guilty.
The statement by the Kotteguda villagers that there were no Maoists in the village on Friday and that all those killed in the “encounter” were innocent villagers should be taken seriously by the State administration and verified through independent agencies. The law is based on the principle that no innocent person should be punished. The security forces, therefore, have a greater responsibility in establishing the presence of Maoists before acting.
Many sections of the media portrayed the killing of the 20 villagers as a victory against foreign aggression. The Union Home Minister said it was a carefully planned operation and did not think it necessary to express regret over the killing of the ‘Maoists,’ fellow Indians. While many argue that the methods used by Maoists are unacceptable, the rebels do have the support of the poor. Without such support, they cannot continue to operate. The government should understand this. The state cannot defeat Maoists by killing them, as for everyone killed at least 10 persons belonging to the deprived sections will be willing to face the bullet of the security forces.
The need of the hour is to get Ministers and bureaucrats known for their honesty and fairness to work in backward regions and win the confidence of the poor. But are there many around?
Maoists should realise that as long as people are unprepared for an armed struggle, they cannot succeed in establishing an equal society in all aspects. People have faith in the present system. An armed class struggle cannot succeed in a democracy. A majority of people do not even react to police encounters or counter-insurgency operations even though they know they are unfair.
That said, history bears testimony to the fact that governments cannot suppress revolutionary movements through encounters. As long as economic disparities and exploitation exist, such movements will continue to grow.
K. Mallikarjuna Reddy,