‘Sorry’ can’t heal the wounds

A week after the deadly Gyaneshwari Rail tragedy, Bapi Mahato said `SORRY`.

Sushmita Dutta

A week after the deadly Gyaneshwari Express tragedy, in which more than 140 innocent civilians died, Bapi Mahato, the man said to be behind this massacre said ‘SORRY’ and accepted responsibility. He also had the audacity to say that the target was a goods trains and not the unfortunate passenger train.

The ‘Naxalbari’ no longer for poor

It is deplorable that the Naxal problem in India has taken such a mammoth shape. A struggle that started way back in 1967 in the quite little hamlet called Naxalbari in West Bengal has tread a long path, but seems now to have lost its way. An armed uprising by the founders of the Naxalism- Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal- was initiated to provide the farmers their lands. At one point of time, they were referred to as the ‘Robinhoods of India’.

Forty three years have gone past and the Naxal movement is now spread in over 220 districts across 20 Indian states. But the movement has never been more ‘red’ than now. Blood is being shed like water, turning the naxal-infested states into a war zone. Armed jawans and helpless men, women and children have been slaughtered at the altar of Naxalism. Now this movement is being termed as ‘the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country’.

The ‘Red Corridor’ has blood on it

In the last few years, the Naxal movement has aggravated and spread to other states also. The main among which are Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, Orissa – also called the ‘red corridor’. The Naxals have been very active in this area. Last year, they did something unprecedented. In April 2009, just days ahead of the Jharkhand polls, the Naxals hijacked a train in Jharkhand’s Latehar district. Around 300 Naxals surrounded the Mugalsarai bound train and held the passengers for hours. The passengers onboard had a harrowing experience.

Year 2010 has been even worse. The Naxalites created mayhem in every part of the red corridor. In the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, a Naxal hotbed, they killed 75 CRPF jawans. Around 1000 Naxalites ambushed 120 CRPF jawans in a meticulously planned operation. The CRPF just walked into the Naxal trap and were brutally slaughtered. It was one the deadliest and most daring attacks by the Naxals in recent times.

Their very next attack was equally terrible. They attacked a civil bus to kill a few policemen, but this time innocents were also killed. The bus was travelling from Gadiras to Bhusaras in the same Dantewada district. The bus had a few Special Police Officers. To avenge the few policemen, they blew the entire bus by planting IED inside the metal road. Most of the deceased were innocents.

The ‘Gyaneshwari Express’ blown-up mercilessly

And it seems like there is no stopping for the Naxals. They recently derailed the Mumbai bound Gyaneshwari Express, which collided with a goods train in Jhargram, West Bengal, killing innocent men and women onboard. Till now the death toll has crossed the 140 mark and is expected to go up.

The victims on that train had nothing to do with Naxals or their agenda. They were simple people travelling from one part of India to the other. After this incident people are already really scared to move in these red corridors. And to top it all, when the Naxal leader Bapi Mahato was confronted for this, all he could say was SORRY.

Just a sorry for all the lives lost in this spine-chilling incident?

“There must have been some miscalculation,” was what Mahato had to say and that they wanted to derail the goods train and did not have any intention to kill harmless people on the Gyaneshwari Express. He said that they were fed with wrong information due to which the mishap occurred and the pandrol clips were removed to derail the goods train. Mahato also squarely put the blame on the ruling CPI (M) and said that CPI (M) men were behind the sabotage.

What was surprising after the Gyaneshwari Express derailment incident was that the Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee denied having any knowledge of the perpetrators of the crime. She termed it as an attempt of political sabotage by CPM ahead of the municipal elections. All that Ms Banerjee could think of was this: “It is a political sabotage by those who are against me. This is a heinous crime.”

The ‘Indifference’ of Mamata Banerjee

Two days later (of the Gyaneshwari Express derailment) on 2nd June 2010, Didi and her party, Trinamool Congress swept the Kolkata Municipal Elections. Out of the 141 wards TMC sealed its symbol on 95 seats, with CPI (M) at 33 and Congress at a far away 10 seats. The TMC Chief inflicted a crushing blow to the ruling Left in its own bastion.

And Mamata Banerjee is now eyeing the assembly elections and making strategies to sideline the Left in West Bengal.

While all these Naxal attacks were taking place, the West Bengal government and the Railway Minister both ignored the victims of the Gyaneshwari Express. People of the affected families were running haywire, some in search of relief for the survivors and some in search of the dead. Were the civic polls so important that the common man’s distress faded into oblivion? Was it not the responsibility of the Railway Minister to provide balm to the victims first rather than rejoice her victory in civic polls?

Ms Banerjee ought to justify her responsibility as the minister for Railways or else she should resign and let some responsible leader take her mantle.

The ‘End’…when will the Naxals be wiped out?

One feels like asking the Naxals – why choose such a path to attain the goals? In a country like India, where Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent path is revered, is violence the only means to make a point? Who will pay for all those innocent lives? Isn’t a proper dialogue a better option?

The Central and state governments need to look into the matter very seriously and come up with solutions fast. Chidambaram had offered talks repeatedly, but the Naxals are unwilling to bit bait.

But just waiting would simply mean putting more lives at risk - lives of our armed forces and innocent civilians. Every time there is an incident in a particular state, the state shows its inability of dealing with the menace and the Centre appears clueless. This issue, which has spread across 20 states, should be dealt at once.

If a dialogue doesn’t succeed the Naxals need to be wiped out. They should not be allowed to go on with this bloodbath. The states and the Centre can jointly launch an operation in a strategic plan to wipe out the Naxal menace. It’s time everyone understood that the ‘Lal Salaam’ of the Naxals is dipped only in blood and if nothing is done, it will colour the entire nation red.