LOSING THE PLOT
Yet, the Government response to the Bastar bloodbath was knee- jerk. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi flew into Raipur within hours of the strike. Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh dubbed the Maoists “terrorists” and Minister of State for Home RPN Singh, standing in for a holidaying Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, vowed a tough re- sponse. Raman Singh announced a three- day state mourning, and a probe by the National Investigating Agency. “The next few months will see a step- up in violence by the Maoists because of the spate of state elections culminating in the General Elections next year,” predicts P. V. Ramana of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.
While the Maoists have been constantly updating their deadly strategy, the Government has no strategy at all. Home ministry assessments have careened from the wooly- headed to the wildly optimistic. In 2004, then home minister Shivraj Patil called them “misguided children”. At the India Today Conclave in 2010, then home minister P. Chidambaram said: “I am confident that before UPA’s second term ends, we will be able to get rid of the Maoist menace.”
The facts on the ground prove otherwise. In just five years, the Maoists have killed six times the cadres they have lost in five years: 1,325 security personnel versus 905 Maoists; 2,031 civilians have been killed in this period. In Chhattisgarh, 46 security personnel were killed in 2012, the lowest in five years. But former state DGP Vishwaranjan says this is because the number of operations against Maoists has actually gone down significantly in the past two years. The Salwa Judum militia was also outlawed by the Supreme Court in 2008.
“There is utter confusion in the Government as to how to deal with