A winnable war

But a democratic state cannot turn around the Maoist insurgency in two or three years

A few days after a major and devastating attack on some of the most prominent political leaders in Chhattisgarh may not be the right moment to attempt a dispassionate review of the government’s counter-insurgency strategy. Immediately after a traumatic event like the Darbha massacre, passions tend to run high and discussions tend to become irrational. Hence it was reassuring to note Jairam Ramesh’s averment that there would be no immediate rethink on the government’s two-pronged strategy of providing security and carrying out developmental activities.

The state must have a plan of action for the short term, which would focus on containing the spread of the menace by resolute governance. It has to be prepared for the long haul in its quest to regain its democratically legitimate power in the areas currently under the control of the LWE forces.

Not many details are available as of now. Some questions, however, can be answered on the basis of past data. The most significant among them is the question as to whether the attacks on political leaders indicate a new strategy of the Maoists. No, there have been past instances of attacks on politicians, notably in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. What happened on Saturday in Darbha was that the Maoists made use of an opportunity that was given to them on a platter. As stated in the document on “Strategy and Tactics” adopted in 2004, when the CPI (Maoist) was founded, “By following the tactics of sudden attack and annihilation, it is absolutely possible to defeat the enemy and achieve victory for the people in single battles.”

The second question that arises is whether there was an intelligence failure. It seems unlikely that the victims, who included high-value targets (for the Maoists), would have been unaware of the existential threat they faced. Specific intelligence regarding the gathering of a Maoist militia to attack them was not really required for the police to have been pro-active in such a context, but would certainly have been useful. Whether there was a failure of the human or technical intelligence mechanisms in place, or both, is something that can only be established by a departmental probe, not necessarily to find fault, but to learn lessons.

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