Red terror struck Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district just 36 hours prior to the first phase of Lok Sabha election with five killed in a roadside bomb – an Improvised Explosive Device planted by suspected Maoist rebels. Amongst the casualties was Bhima Mandvi, BJP MLA, who was heading to a locality in the Maoist hinterland despite being advised against following an intelligence input regarding a possible Maoist attack. Bhima’s convoy was ambushed as the bomb reduced his car to scrap. A group of 20-25 Maoists opened fire on the convoy with security forces accompanying Bhima in another vehicle engaged in crossfire for at least half an hour before the Maoists retreated. The incident generated panic in the Bastar region as Maoists had outlined their call for boycotting the upcoming polls a few days ago, threatening people with adverse consequences if they exercise voting. The incident, an ambush in the Red zone against the establishment, stirred memories of a similar instance back in May 2013 where 27 people were killed including former Union Minister VC Shukla and Senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma by the Maoists in Bastar ahead of the state assembly polls. The Maoist attack on Tuesday, however, does not come as a surprise following similar Red terror strikes that have shaken up the state terrorising the locals. Maoists, historically, have struck security forces in big numbers during polling months. Be it the single biggest attack against security forces in Tadmetla, Dantewada, back in April 2010, where 76 CRPF soldiers were killed in an ambush laid by nearly 1000 Naxals on hilltops or Darbha valley, again Dantewada, May 2013, where 28 people including top Congress leadership taken down, the Ultra-Left cadre has left the establishment distraught with their recurring efforts to seize power in the region. Bhima Mandvi’s convoy ambush is the 39th Maoist insurgency incident in the country this year coming days after suspected Maoist rebels – perpetrators of a decades-long war against the expropriation of their resources – executed five paramilitary personnel in two separate attacks in the state. These rebels have asked the locals to boycott the upcoming polls, not just in Chhattisgarh but the entire Red corridor. In an unexpected incidence, these Ultra-Left rebels extended support to Kashmiri separatists and militants who have a similar – struggle against the state – cause, calling a boycott of the Lok Sabha election. CPI(Maoist) circulated a 2-page press release on WhatsApp, urging villagers to boycott the polls and support them in establishing a People’s Council and spreading their aim to create a state within a state in the “liberated zone” entirely controlled by Maoists. The Maoist menace with their anti-establishment stance has, however, failed to influence the polling schedule. The Bastar constituency, where Dantiwada is located, will vote today in the first phase of the LS polls as planned. Also Read – A compounding difficultyWith Maoist insurgency rendering an ugly situation in the Red Corridor over the years irrespective of UPA or NDA terms, the situation has ceased to improve. The contentious issue of insurgency in the Red Corridor prima facie appears to be a prolonged internal conflict between the establishment and the insurgents. However, BJP and Congress quarrelling over each other’s alleged collusion with the insurgents gives the internal conflict an ever bitter taste. Expectedly, a blame game ignited between the ruling Congress and BJP over Mandvi’s death with the BJP leaders alleging a conspiracy by Congress. Congress retaliated how Maoist control has proliferated from three to 13 districts in the state over the last 15 years owing to faulty BJP policies under ex-CM Raman Singh. A divided establishment only fuels the ambitions of the insurgents which is why years of counter-insurgency operations have only produced grievous outcomes. Civilians, security personnel, and insurgents, all have perished due to this uncontained Red Terror which often registers a spike during polling periods. It is certain that the election period is a most-ripe time for the Maoist rebels to highlight their objective and capability both through their violent engagements. The state and the Central governments have so far failed to appropriately tackle this internal crisis and one cannot help but notice the pattern forming of Maoist attacks coinciding with polling seasons. Mandvi’s death and the general insurgency by Maoists draws a sharp contrast to India’s recent achievement in strengthening national security with the BJP reiterating how India will bow down to no one when it comes to its integrity and national security. The national security narrative that BJP offers to everyone may be reduced to empty rhetoric in the face of Red terror which has plagued the country for a long time now. If the Modi dispensation strengthened India’s defence then the prevailing misery of insurgency returns an ironical slap on the nation’s stance over its integrity. We cannot boast of subduing threats and showcasing defence and space prowess when we have failed to combat insurgency for decades. The only way to remedy this is by establishing a comprehensive plan to eradicate Red Terror from the roots.
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