On bended knee

For hostages’ release,Orissa govt is bargaining with Maoists from a position of weakness

Written by The Indian Express | Published: April 6, 2012 3:34:47 am

For hostages’ release,Orissa govt is bargaining with Maoists from a position of weakness

The necessity of ensuring the safe release of hostages cannot be denied. Last year,the Orissa government released Maoist ideologue Ganti Prasadam in exchange of Malkangiri collector Vineel Krishna and a junior engineer. The release of hostages is a complicated and highly risky business where it can take very little for the deal to go entirely wrong. After the release of Claudio Colangelo on March 25,that of his fellow Italian Paolo Basusco and Koraput MLA Jhina Hikaka was being negotiated through intermediaries. By itself,therefore,Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s decision to release 27 Maoists and their supporters could be altogether justifiable.

However,Patnaik’s problem is that his decision will be shadowed by his state’s overall record against Naxals. That is far below average,when compared to its neighbours — Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh,even Jharkhand and West Bengal. To set aside the hostage issue,this is not the first time the state government is being seen to be capitulating to Maoists. This,when there is enough evidence of confusion and infighting within Maoist ranks,as demonstrated by the fact that two different groups are holding the two hostages,with different sets of demands. Sabyasachi Panda,whose outfit holds the Italian,is an old rebel,censured by the Maoist central committee,and whose wife is among those to be released. These deep fractures were brought about by the joint anti-Naxal operations and developmental initiatives. Yet,on the run from neighbouring states,Maoists did not feel the same heat in Orissa,which has been the laggard that never wholeheartedly employed a strategy that produced good results elsewhere. As long as the reality of Maoism as a cynical war against the state,with a self-sustaining logic of anarchy,was not grasped in theory,the political will to defeat it would be absent or weak. Orissa,although having done better of late,seemed to have made that original mistake.

Therefore,while Patnaik should do what he must to safely get the hostages released — incidentally,Maoists have extended the deadline for the MLA — he has to re-examine Orissa’s record. After all,as the prime mover against the National Counter-Terrorism Centre,he should account for the state of law-and-order in his state.

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