UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi has described the Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh, which claimed the lives of several Congress leaders including Salwa Judum leader Mahendra Karma, as an ‘attack on democracy.’

The Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi, as leaders of the Congress party, must be asked if Mahendra Karma and Salwa Judum, declared ‘unconstitutional’ by the Supreme Court, represented ‘democracy’? The Salwa Judum SPOs stand accused of burning entire villages, raping women, and killing countless people. Yet Mahendra Karma and his extra-constitutional terrorist outfit got the backing not only of BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh but of the Union Home Ministry and the Congress party. Was this democracy?

The Salwa Judum, flouting the Supreme Court ordering it to be disbanded, continues to be operational under a variety of pretexts, with the tacit support of the Central Government. In Chhattisgarh, then, the worst and most flagrant attacks on democracy are being launched by its supposed custodians, the State and Central Governments and the security forces.

While one cannot condone the killing of innocent or abducted people, the Maoist attack on May 25 surely cannot be seen in isolation from the political context of Chhattisgarh where the State has given up even the pretence of upholding Constitutional norms or democratic rights. Just a week before the Maoist attack on the Congress convoy, 8 adivasis including 3 children aged 10-15, were shot dead by CRPF while celebrating a seed sowing festival. In June last year, 17 people were killed in another CRPF firing on an adivasi festival. The security officers were not booked for murder, and the SC/ST Act was not invoked. Senior police officers accused of sexual torture and rape of adivasi women in custody have received gallantry awards from the President of India. These atrocities were never ever described by India’s or Chhattisgarh’s rulers as ‘attacks on democracy’.

It must also be stressed emphatically that the CPI (Maoist)’s militaristic actions, isolated from democratic movements and political assertion, are counterproductive in developing any mass resistance to the Government’s policies of corporate plunder, Salwa Judum and Operation Green Hunt. It is also on record that the Maoists have at times acted as mercenaries for ruling class parties, murdering CPI(ML) activists in Paliganj (Bihar) at RJD’s behest and CPI(ML)’s Jharkhand MLA Mahendra Singh at the behest of the nexus of the BJP leadership, a corrupt police officer and coal mafia.

The Governments of Chhattisgarh and the Centre have already begun to use the latest Maoist attack as a pretext to propose Army deployment and even of Air Force strikes and ‘drone attacks’. The Governments cannot be allowed to dress up such an unconscionable war on the adivasi people as a ‘war on Maoists’. Instead, there must be an immediate scrapping of Operation Green Hunt, withdrawal of former SPOs from the Chhattisgarh police force, and criminal action initiated against all those, including police personnel and Salwa Judum cadre, who stand accused of rape and killing.

The developments in Chhattisgarh make it abundantly clear that the quest for a military solution to the Maoist or any other insurgency is antithetical to the very notion of democracy and rule of law. Pressure must be brought to bear upon concerned governments and other wings of the state to shun this counterproductive quest for a non-existent military solution and pave the way for a democratic political solution. The Maoists too must realize that a few stunning and sensational military actions are no substitute for the basic and indispensable task of waging a protracted political battle to secure and defend people’s rights.