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The Jharkhand government cannot continue to opt out of anti-Maoist action

Written by The Indian Express | Published: February 19, 2010 1:53 am

The attack on the Silda camp of the Eastern Frontier Rifles in West Bengal happened in a context of cynical political laziness. For allowing a climate in which Maoists can overrun a camp with such brazenness,West Bengal’s political forces are primarily responsible. But concern and anger should also be focussed next door,on the state of Jharkhand,and on Shibu Soren’s new government. There is a strong likelihood that the Silda

attackers emerged from across the Bengal-Jharkhand border — and that,after their raid was done,they headed back over the border to what they probably have come to think of as something of a safe haven.

The government in Jharkhand,run by Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and by the Bharatiya Janata Party,has already worried those following anti-Maoist operations. Their lack of enthusiasm for coordinated operation has been marked: most

notably,the government has opted out of several chief minister-level meetings to discuss the problem. And reports that the government ended patrolling and left the Special Task Force,intended to take on Naxals,cooling its heels in its barracks,add up to a very disturbing picture: that the ruling coalition in Jharkhand has chosen to step back,and be obstructive,in India’s fight against left-wing extremism. Now has come confirmatory evidence that Jharkhand is turning into the soft underbelly of the Indian state: Soren gave in to demands from the CPI (Maoist) that 14 villagers in Dalbhumgarh jail be freed; in return,he wanted the Maoists to safely release the

abducted block development officer for the area,Prasant Kumar Layek. Whether or not the 14 villagers in question — yet to be tried in a court of law — turn out to have been Maoist cadre,sympathisers of some sort,or completely unrelated victims of an over-zealous police is quite

beside the point. The problem is that,once again,the Jharkhand government has chosen to give in,to embolden the Maoist leadership. (Naturally,they reportedly responded with a fresh set of demands.)

There can be no passengers in the fight against the Naxalites. The paramount lesson of the past few years has been that disparate jurisdictions need to be willing to work together. The Jharkhand government cannot let whatever mistaken political calculation is causing this softness to impede an all-India

effort. And the BJP,currently meeting in Indore,must take the lead. Surely it will be difficult for India’s primary opposition party to claim that the Central government is lax on internal security when one of its own governments is conspicuously opting out of the effort.

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