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Beheading is regular Maoist practice

The beheading of Inspector Francis Induwar by his Maoist abductors is, no doubt, a horrific and gruesome act. However, the media hysteria in its wake, and the idea that this incident has abruptly transformed the Naxalites into 'terrorists' or 'Taliban', while they were a genus of heroic liberators in the past, is hardly justified. For one thing, this is not the first time the Maoists have killed in this ghastly fashion. Indeed, in Bihar, at one time, it was a common for Naxalites of various hues to "shorten" a man by a foot, "from the top". Over the past years, after the formation of the Communist Party of India - Maoist, there have been several such incidents. On March 15, 2009, for instance, a Maoist Jan Adalat beheaded one person at Bokaro. On June 15, 2008, the Maoists beheaded one of their surrendered cadres at Murgaon at Gadchiroli. On August 7, 2007, a Jan Adalat beheaded two persons at Arki near Ranchi. On April 25, 2007, the Maoists beheaded two brothers, accusing them of being Police informers, at Tamba, near Ranchi.

The distinction between 'terrorists' and 'insurgents' moreover, is increasingly specious. All contemporary insurgent groups use terrorist tactics with greater or lesser frequency; all modern terrorist organisations tend to have at least some insurgent base. In any event, terrorist violence has always been integral to Maoist doctrine. As Mao wrote, "it is necessary to create terror… to suppress the activities of the counter-revolutionaries… Proper limits have to be exceeded in order to right a wrong, or else the wrong cannot be righted."

A beheading, moreover, does not alter either moral or security assessments any more or less than a killing by any other manner. Maoist violence has been rising steadily, and Francis is not the first policeman to be killed. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal database, in 2009, till October 6, a total of 275 civilians and 257 Security Force (SF) personnel had been killed by the Naxalites across India. In 2008, the Maoists killed 214 SF personnel and 210 civilians. The obvious brutality of a beheading cannot detract from the fact that the Maoists kill hundreds every year, just as cold bloodedly, with bullet, bomb, noose and blade.

There is nothing new in any of this, except the fact that these killings can be expected to accelerate, perhaps rapidly, in the near future. At least part of this would be because of the constant tom-tomming, by State and Central 'sources', about the 'massive' and 'intensive operations', including hi-tech fantasies of a satellite- and UAV-surveillance backed assault on the 'central guerrilla zone' in Abujhmadh, imminently to be launched across the 'Naxalite belt'. Loud whispers about such 'operations' have been leaking from corridors of power for months now, despite endemic capacity deficits that continue to hobble the SFs. The Maoists have had enough time to prepare their game plan to sidestep such operations by escalating violence across increasingly wide theatres. This strategy was clearly articulated in the Maoist Politburo's June 12, 2009, document, which emphasised the need to "intensify the war", noting that the "tactical counter-offensives should be stepped up and also taken up in new areas so as to divert a section of the enemy forces from attacking our guerrilla bases and organs of political power."

(Published in DNA, India, October 8, 2009)





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