When Arundhati Roy met a child, acting as a messenger for Maoists, she wondered if he was the biggest security threat to the Indian state. But don't stretch that forced irony to any children sitting in a bus carrying special police officers (SPOs). No point in saying “Do these children represent the ugly face of a hegemonic State?”
An unspecified number of children, not to mention women, were killed in Dantewada on Monday in a landmine explosion triggered by the Maoists. But people who can argue on behalf of the rebels blame it on the SPOs, who shouldn't have used them as a shield.
“Maoists are very principled. They don't attack civilians. SPOs were using civilians as a shield in their fight against the Maoists,” said G N Saibaba, a DU assistant professor who has been campaigning to stop anti-Maoist security operation. His remarks came on the sidelines of a press briefing by B D Sharma, a former SC/ST commissioner who has been working in the tribal areas for close to half-a-century.
Asked to comment on Monday's massacre, Sharma said he would prefer to wait for details. “I don't know the details. Whenever they (Maoists) made mistakes, they apologised.”
Sharma is among the three mediators Maoist leader Kishanji has proposed whenever the talks with the government were to take place (the other two are Arundhati Roy and Kabir Suman).
Sharma urged both sides to work for restoring peace first.
“Both sides should agree on a ceasefire. Peace must be restored. Talks can follow. I can't understand why the government is evading talks for such a long time by saying that the Maoists should abjure violence first. Both sides should abjure violence before talks can take place. That is the practice followed everywhere in the world,” he said.
Sharma, a retired IAS officer, said the central government had abdicated its responsibility in saying that it was for the states to deal with the Maoists, be it in terms of development or the security operations. “It is the centre's responsibility to administer the scheduled (tribal) areas as per the Fifth Schedule of the constitution, something that it has not discharged in the past 60 years or more,” he said.
He, however, was critical of the talk of “development" in tribal areas. “Don't talk about development of tribal areas. Get off out back, we don't want any development,” Sharma said, insisting how all his life he had been asking the government to leave the tribals alone.