Thursday, Nov 21, 2002
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THE GRUESOME KILLING of 14 persons by naxalites of the People's War in a landmine blast in Warangal district on Monday has enveloped the people of Andhra Pradesh in grief and cast an ugly shadow on the State's overall profile. Most of the victims, who were fatally trapped in the State Road Transport Corporation bus in the forests of Eturunagaram near Chintaguda, as in other instances, were tribals and the marginalised in society, including women and children. The PW's offensive has also spread to Guntur district where extensive damage to public property has been reported in the last few days. The brutal killings of Monday night were apparently in retaliation to the murder of five PW men by the police on Sunday. The PW's explanation that the incident was yet another case of mistaken identity on the part of its cadres hardly absolves it of responsibility for perpetrating violence and terror on innocent civilians whose cause it ostensibly upholds. While the general sentiment seems to be that people in the districts of northern Telengana are now sandwiched between the naxalites and the police apparatus, Monday's incident may well have given the police a tactical edge over the extremists.
The Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, has ruled out resumption of parleys with the extremist outfits and the Opposition has joined the Government in condemning the brutal incident in unequivocal terms. However, viewed in the light of the recently aborted attempts at engaging militant groups in a dialogue, the sudden hardened stand of the State Government should hopefully be only a tactical retreat from his earlier initiative. Perhaps, it also reflects a lack of clearsightedness on the law and order front as well as an appropriate response to the deeper social concerns thrown up by extremist politics that have been the bane of the policy of successive Governments in Andhra Pradesh during the past three decades. Conversely, the more recent initiative of Mr. Naidu to talk peace with militants, although shortlived, infused fresh breath into the endeavour of breaking the deadlock between the Government and the militant outfits. In that context, the sense of realism concerning the respective postures adopted by the Government and the PW ensured that expectations were kept within reasonable limits. Against the background of the recent developments, a more realistic course for the State Government to follow would be to ensure that there is no let-up on the law and order front and at the same time seize the earliest politically proper opportunity to engage militant groups. No popular government could afford to ignore these basic imperatives of democratic governance.
It is difficult to imagine, at least in the foreseeable future, that there would be any enthusiastic takers for the view that an effective counter to left-wing extremism in Andhra Pradesh as well as in neighbouring States should be rooted in the socio-political process. Harking back to such a position at this juncture would sound hypocritical, given the immediate humanitarian implications of the aftermath of Monday's tragedy. Besides, it would also amount to underestimating the necessarily long-drawn nature of the so-called democratically-informed response. On the contrary, human rights groups must begin to ask whether the temptation to succumb to a law and order mindset was not in fact reinforced by recourse to the cult of violence which, at best, serves to embarrass the powers that be, besides exposing the desperation of the advocates of the so-called militant ideologies. The PW, which continues to swear by the power of the gun, has much to answer here and the longer it takes to enter the political mainstream, the faster will be the erosion of its appeal even in pockets of the feudal belt where it once held sway.
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