Need policy to deal with hostage situations: GK Pillai
The Maoists may have gone off the headlines, especially after Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon was freed from their clutches in the first week of May, but their threat to internal security continues to be as grave as it was when the prime minister declared them as “the biggest internal security challenge” in 2010.
“They (Maoists) are still not under the pressure of the security forces and so they will not come for peace talks. Insurgents come for talks only when they are under pressure,” declared former home secretary GK Pillai at a roundtable on 'state’s response to hostage situations' here on Thursday. He said the security scenario in Maoist-affected may have dramatically improved with the induction of more than 70 battalions of paramilitary forces but the police-public ration remained at a dismal low. “We will not be able to achieve the target of 220 cops per 100,000 people in the next 10 years,” he said, citing absence of police training schools and trained teachers as the primary hurdles. The present police-people ration remains around 120.
Referring to the Maoists taking hostage Sukma collector, and before that Malkangiri collector Vineel Krishna, Pillai said there was a need for a hostage policy. “We have a policy to deal with hijacking (adopted after the 1999 Kandahar episode) but not with such hostage situations.”
Nirmal Buch, former chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh, who negotiated Sukma collector’s release outlined what such a policy should have. “By taking hostages, the insurgents want to show that the state is weak. The state can’t allow that. The state can't capitulate. It must make very clear that certain things are non-negotiable. I told them (Maoist negotiators) no talks can be held at gunpoint,” she said referring to her 10-day-long negotiations after which the Sukma collector was freed without swapping Maoists in jail. “Instead, we offered a committee to look into the issues of people in in jail,” she said.
To her, the root cause of Maoist menace is not lack of development. “The tribals are not looking for major development. They are looking for redressal of their petty grievances. Who do they go to when their land is grabbed or they face harassment? They go to the outlaws (the Maoists) because there is no grievance redressal system. Access to the state and a redressal system will make a huge difference,” she said.
Another key factor that could help in dealing with a hostage situation is mutual trust between the state and the civil society. Stressing that she was greatly greatly by the positive response of the media and civil society during her negotiations, Buch said the state should remove distrust and differences with the civil society for better result.
Former DG of UP police, Prakash Singh, too stressed on the need for a policy to deal with hostage situations, and indeed an internal security doctrine but regretted that differences among political parties was holding it up.