Maoist cult of death

May 28, 2010 11:16 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 08:53 pm IST

“We are sorry,” said a Communist Party of India (Maoist) spokesperson after a bomb went off under a crowded bus in Chhattisgarh earlier this month, killing 24 civilians, “but it could not be helped.” Friday's tragedy in West Bengal's Paschim Medinipur district, which has claimed at least 75 lives, suggests Maoist groups see the death of ever-larger numbers of civilians as an acceptable part of the macabre war they have inflicted on large swathes of central and eastern India. West Bengal authorities have announced the Maoist-linked People's Committee for Police Atrocities left posters at the site where the Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwar Express derailed, saying the attack was carried out to protest unspecified Communist Party of India (Marxist) “atrocities.” In recent months, there have been other attacks of this kind. Last week, two people were injured when extremists in Paschim Medinipur opened fire on a Tatanagar-bound express train. Two days earlier, a bomb went off under a train carrying oil through Bihar; 14 freight cars caught fire. On May 19, Maoists bombed a freight train near Jhargram, injuring two engine drivers. Last year, two people were killed and 38 injured in an attack on another train in Jharkhand's Simdega district. During the three-day bandh called by Maoists between February 7 and 9, 2010, railway lines, which by their nature are difficult to protect, were targeted 11 times. Each of these incidents could easily have had outcomes just as horrific as the latest.

A movement that used to claim it targeted only ‘combatants' is increasingly resorting to excitative terrorism against ‘non-combatants.' Eight years ago, when Maoists blew up a bus near Chintagudem, in Andhra Pradesh's Warangal district and 14 adivasis were killed, CPI(Maoist) leader Muppala Laxman Rao, alias Ganapathy, issued a public apology — although it bears mention that he did little to punish the perpetrators, choosing only to demote squad commander Akula Indraiah. In general, Maoist groups in Andhra Pradesh offered apologies, and sometimes even compensation, for civilian deaths. In recent months, dozens of local-level opponents of Maoists — many of them poor peasants — have been tortured and executed; CPI(Marxist) cadre in West Bengal have been among the principal victims. Maoist leaders have been unrepentant, claiming, for example, that they had issued circulars and warnings that civilians “should keep away from buses and lorries ferrying government forces” but “they did not listen and paid a heavy price.” Language like this advertises the fact that a movement carried out in the name of India's poor has, for all practical purposes, degenerated into an inhuman cult of death.

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