The Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district that claimed five lives, including that of a CISF jawan, is timed to galvanise maximum attention to the cause ultras are fighting for as it coincides with the visit of PM Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi to the state ahead of the first phase of the Assembly elections taking place next week. This was the second attack in the space of 10 days in the area, with the first incident claiming the lives of two police personnel and a Doordarshan cameraman. The attacks are obviously meant to create a sense of uncertainty in the administration as well as the local population so as to prevent the smooth conduct of polling.
Maoist opposition to elections is not a new phenomenon. The Naxals are opposed to the democratic process as they believe it is skewed in favour of more privileged sections and against the tribal people. They have also been opposed to the government’s development style, which they feel is imposed from top. Every time elections are called, they launch a campaign among the local inhabitants asking the tribal people not to turn up for voting and threatening them of dire consequences if they dared to ignore the warning. This really complicates the task of the state machinery in conducting the polls. A total of 18 assembly seats spread across eight Naxal-hit districts are going to polls in the first phase.
The insurgents are opposed to the development of infrastructure, particularly roads and other communication systems in the tribal areas as they fear that the introduction of modernity will make tracking of their activities easier for the security agencies and they will lose cover for their insurgency. Excesses by the security forces have further complicated the situation, giving a semblance of legitimacy to their subversive activities, particularly among their sympathisers, the most prominent among them being the ‘urban Maoists’, who have recently been in the news mostly for the wrong reasons.
A pick-up in violence by the Maoists has not served their cause as the government has clamped down on their intellectual leadership in a nationwide swoop, under which several leaders dubbed as urban Maoists have been interned and are facing tough legal challenges. Revelations by the security forces, some of which have of course raised suspicions about their genuineness, have turned public opinion against the ultras as their victims are often innocent civilians. The death of the Doordarshan cameraman, for instance, was a public relations disaster for the Maoists, forcing them to go on the defensive and claim that it was the result of a terrible mistake. It is high time that the Maoists realised they are fighting a lost battle, which they can never win as violence has no history of success an effective means of struggle.