The death of Maoist leader Mallojula Koteswar Rao alias Kishenji in West Bengal on Thursday is one more blow to the ultra-Left movement. Once again, it reaffirms the truth that in democratic societies, political violence has no place.
Kishenji was killed in the state’s West Midnapore district close to Jharkhand in an encounter with security forces. He was the highest-ranking Maoist to be gunned down after the elimination of Azad last year.
At the same time, it marks a step in the administrative education of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Banerjee has for long been sympathetic to the causes of the poor and downtrodden. But as an opposition leader in the state, she failed to make a distinction between being friendly to the poor and hobnobbing with dangerous anti-national elements. When she assumed her current office, she tried hard to bring the Maoists to the negotiating table. Her assumption—based on her success in negotiating with sulking political leaders of the Darjeeling region—was that Maoists would sit across the table and amicably resolve all “issues” at hand.
The Maoists were not interested in any such thing. And that left just one course for her: to confront them with force. One hopes she will continue with this strategy.
At the moment, there is very little noise about the “development vs law and order” debate that led to heated arguments last year. If anything, this would be a right time to rekindle that debate. Banerjee’s experience—her patient handling of the issue and Maoist obduracy—points to one conclusion (if that were ever in doubt): The Maoists are not interested in a dialogue and peaceful resolution of any issues they may have.
One way to minimize the problem of ultra-Left violence and ideology would be to, paradoxically, follow their strategy. After clearing a substantial region from Maoist influence—something akin to their vanguard region—the government’s development machinery should move in with force and execute development works. That way, not only will a large number of citizens, who have been left behind for long, make tangible gains, but the country as a whole will gain.
The present United Progressive Alliance government believes in progressive measures. In Jairam Ramesh, it has a minister who wants to implement far-reaching beneficial ideas but is held back because of law and order problems in the far-flung areas of the country. Now is the time to move ahead and change things.
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