Orissa Govt: Losing Direction?

The Naxals are demanding freeing of their jailed comrades and have set a 48-hr deadline.

Updated: Feb 18, 2011, 18:47 PM IST

DN Singh

It has been an unending concern for over 48 hours, till the item was being written, after the Maoists, as the government alleged, abducted Malkangiri`s District Magistrate R Vineel Krishna.

Still there is no trace, as of, where the abductors have taken him to or a word from that side. Except, of course, a letter from the abductors with certain demands and a deadline of 48 hours.

Orissa’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who till recently had maintained the tough posture of no truce of any kind with the Red rebels before the latter abhor violence, is completely on the defensive. He requested the rebels to free the officer and the junior engineer.

Requests often do not produce the results. What is equally surprising is that, till now, the state government has not set its priorities with regard to mediation with the rebels for the release of the two officers. What is unspoken, yet implicit, in the entire issue is that the state government is in utter dilemma, which has led to mistakes inviting criticism from the Union Home Ministry.

The state government`s decision to unilaterally halt the combing operation in Malkangiri area has been questioned by the Union Home Secretary as to why the state decided to halt the operation which was carried out by the unified command?

On the issue of mediation with the rebels, the State has so far not cleared the names of the people who would mediate, though the Chief Minister has made it clear that his government is ready for talks.

With complete regard to the sensitivity of the incident and concern over the imminent threats to the safety of the two in Maoists` captivity, there was an impression that the government is now either helpless or not willing to toughly deal with the ultras. After a series of setbacks in the recent days, the Maoists in Orissa have, perhaps, retaliated with vengeance, which seemed to be a natural fallout. The conventional wisdom should have been that the DM had taken inadequate security measures before venturing into an area, and that too in a motorcycle, which still remains to be the stronghold of the Naxals.

The incident has come as a culmination of incidents after the rebels suffered the defeats in consecution in the last two months. So they, it seems, were waiting and gave a shocker that proved to be debilitating - politically for Naveen and morally for the ones working in the Naxal-infested districts.

Now, the major task before the state government is to get the DM, Vineel Krishna, and the JE, Pavitra Majhi, released. The state administration has given the impression that feelers have been sent to the border to explore the chance for a talk with the Maoists. It is, in fact, not a situation where a few officers from the lower strata can broker between the Maoists and the State. The silence has pushed a huge sense of uncertainty in the public mind and taken away a good amount of fear from the mind of the Maoists to repeat such acts in the future.

Or, is it that the State government is simply banking on the appeals from the people from those parts of the state, who are urging the ultras to release the Collector and the JE. But such procrastination should not trigger an explosive eventuality that harms the captives.

One thing has been established that the Andhra-Orissa Zonal unit of the Maoists has abducted two officers from Malkangiri. And if the sources are to be believed, then the rebels have already sounded the warning that if the government fails to fulfil their demands, then first they shall kill the JE, Pavitra Majhi.

This is a time the State government should have taken the entire political community into confidence rather that displaying a brazenness which may not pay. But the chief minister, in the last 48 hours, has never shown any sign of a unified approach to the issue. His government’s choice for a singular approach to such a smack practically may not help.