The nation witnessed three hostage crises in quick succession -- two in Odisha and one in Chhattisgarh -- in less than two months.
In Odisha, the Maoists took hostage ruling BJD MLA Jina Hikaka for 33 days. Earlier, the left ultras held captive two Italian nationals – Claudio Colangelo and Paolo Bosusco -- for 11 days and 29 days, respectively. In neighbouring Chhattisgarh, the red ultras held hostage the collector of the newly-formed Sukma district Alex Paul Menon for 12 days.
Even as I write this piece, the Maoists abducted a police sub-inspector in Nuapada district of Odisha and later shot him dead.
Now, as the hostage drama is over, let me analyse how the two state governments dealt with the Maoists to secure the release of the hostages. For the record, Chhattisgarh government claims that it entered into an agreement with the Maoists to set up a high-powered committee to secure the release of the Sukma collector. The committee will review the cases of all prisoners locked in state jails, including the cases demanded by the Maoists.
Some concessions could have been made by the Chhattisgarh government, though Chief Minister Raman Singh denies any “trade off”. But that is in sharp contrast to Odisha government’s shameful capitulation before the Maoists to secure release of the BJD MLA and two Italian nationals. Bowing to the Maoists, Naveen Patnaik government agreed to free five left ultras to facilitate the release of two Italian nationals.
To obtain the release of the BJD MLA, Naveen government bent further before another Maoist group. The BJD government decided to release as many as 25 left rebels, which includes eight Maoists and 17 members of the Maoist-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh after “significant negotiation (as a BJD leader puts it).”
The story didn’t end there, the ruling BJD MLA was “prosecuted” in a Kangaroo court (read ‘people’s court’), where the Maoists played the judge. Hikaka reportedly told the Kangaroo court that he would resign as MLA, snap all ties with the BJD and live as an ordinary citizen, after which the ‘court’ pronounced its order to free him.
The twin hostage crisis in Odisha took place exactly a year after Maoists abducted the then Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna. The state government had negotiated a swap deal with the Maoists to secure the release of the collector. As per the deal, Odisha government freed a dozen of hardcore Maoists, apart from agreeing to a 13-point charter of demands set by the left ultras.
Hostage crisis followed by a craven surrender by the state government has become an annual event in Odisha.
Odisha has emerged as a soft state when it comes to dealing with Maoists. So far Naveen Patnaik government has done nothing to rein in the left ultras and thereby making the state a sanctuary for the Maoists.
<b>Italian hostage crisis: A staged drama!</b>
It is learnt that Italian national Paolo Bosusco -- who was running a travel agency in Puri -- was a member of Italy based ultra-Left outfit Party of Committees to Support Resistance for Communism (CARC). It is further learnt that Bosusco had enjoyed the hospitality of the Maoists on several occasions
<b>BJD on a tightrope </b>
As Jina Hikaka’s possible resignation is doing the rounds, the ruling BJD is in a tight spot over its exposed nexus with the Maoists. It is revealed that the abduction of the Laximipur MLA was the result of a secret pact – done by BJD with Maoist-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) during the election for Koraput Zila Parishad president in March -- gone wrong. Remember, it was the same CMAS, which was banned by Odisha government in 2006.
Hikaka along with Koraput MP Jayaram Pangi, Jeypore MLA Ravi Nanda, Koraput MLA Raghuram Podal, beside 14 Zilla Parishad members of Koraput district reportedly signed a tacit agreement with CMAS, whose elected members in Panchayats held the deciding vote. Reports say Maoist interlocutor Dandapani Mohanty played a key role in sealing the deal with the BJD.
The agreement was sent to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in the form of a letter. The letter clearly stated that the BJD agreed to a charter demands made by the CMAS. The demands include leniency against CMAS members locked in prisons, halting operation Green Hunt, action against “police excesses” in Naxal-hold areas of Koraput district among others. In return, the CMAS members voted for the BJD.
When the BJD government could not afford to keep its promises made to the CMAS, the Maoists abducted Hikaka to arm twist the government.
“Our elected members voted for the BJD in the Zilla Parishad presidential elections. After we made them win, the BJD government didn’t honour the agreement,” convenor of CMAS Nachika Linga had said. Linga, who features in the most wanted list of Odisha police faces as many as 60 cases ranging from murder to waging war against the state. He is currently on the run.
<b>Maoists all set to enter electoral politics </b>
It’s now official. Maoists, for the first time in India, want to debut in electoral politics. They want to field CMAS convenor Nachika Linga from Laxmipur Assembly constituency. Jina Hikaka’s possible resignation from the state Assembly could pave way for Linga to taste his electoral victory. If that happens, it will bring a million dollar trouble for Naveen Patnaik government.
<b>Maoists– A divided a lot </b>
The hostage drama in Odisha has brought out the sharp differences between the two Maoists group -- Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) and Odisha State Organising Committee (OSOC) – operating in the state.
The leaders of AOBSZC don’t see an eye to eye with the secretary of OSOC Sabyasachi Panda. Reports say AOBSZC leaders are hounding for Sabyasachi’s blood and could encounter him at any moment. It is learnt that Panda, who many say is nurturing a political ambition, is desperately looking for a way out for surrender.
But despite fissures among Maoists over their areas of authority and operation, their Red Corridor remains intact.
<b>Dealing with hostage crisis </b>
All the recent hostage crises show that the hostages choose to ignore the standard operating procedures and the Maoists took advantage to it.
I don’t see any justification in negotiating with those who are waging a war against the state. Its time the government makes it clear that there will be no negotiation with hostage takers. National Security Guards (NSG), those who are trained to deal with such situations, could be deployed to deal with hostage crisis.
The centre in tandem with the states should put in place a uniform national policy to deal with the hostage crisis the earliest. If needed, the state should be prepared to lose hostages. But the retaliatory strike should be swift and deadly.
<b>It’s an all out war</b>
Maoists are terrorists. This is non-negotiable. Even if the cries of jholawallah ilk get shriller.
The left ultras are waging a war against the nation. They ruthlessly snuff out the lives of countless men in uniform and civilians to satiate their narrow goal. They mock at the Constitution of India.
It is a fact that successive governments have failed to reach out to the Tribals. But, the red ultras’ claim that they are fighting for the cause --tribal rights is nothing but hogwash. The Maoists terrorize the innocent Tribals for whom they claim to fight for.
It is a matter of fact that the Maoists want no development to take place in the Tribal areas. Why else would they routinely blow up schools and hospitals?
The left ultras are unleashing havoc in as much as 160 districts of eight states. They are expanding their strongholds by cocking a snook at the elected governments.
Maoists seek to destroy our republic, the fabric of our democracy and our rule of law. They are a curse to the society and a scar on the face of humanity. The state must defeat them.