Bihar CM dispels notions of a soft-sate without jeopardising lives of the hostages
Prasanna Mohanty | September 6, 2010
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has done a commendable job in a grave hostage situation. He not only stood firm and refused to negotiate, as a “strong” state would be expected to do, he did even better. He ensured that the lives of the policemen taken hostage were not jeopardized. This he did by offering a peace talk with the Maoists and carrying the political opposition along in his decision, which was critical to him in view of the forthcoming elections.
Nitish has also silenced his critics who have been accusing him of being “soft” towards the Maoists by not joining the centre and the neighbouring states of West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand in their anti-Maoist security operations.
Last Thursday, he publicly addressed the issue of hostage crisis for the first time when the Maoists delivered their threat – free eight comrades or else four cops taken hostage will be killed one by one. The news channels had gone to town by showing the plight of victims’ family members.
Nitish made two basic points. One, he said there was nothing he could do to ensure safety of the hostages because they (cops) were the Maoists. But very astutely he reminded the Maoists that his government upheld the “human rights” of the Maoists in police custody and he expected the same from them too. This was a message that he was not going to negotiate for the release of the hostages.
He discounted the emotional backlash by saying that he had met the family members of the victims and tried to assuage their feelings and that there was little more he could do at that point.
Two, Nitish said he was ready for a peace talk and assured a “free passage” too, but said this can’t be done through newspapers or handing over mobile numbers –something that union home minister P Chidambaram had done earlier this year by offering his mobile number to Maoists leader Kishanji.
Next, the Bihar chief minister called for an all-party meeting and got an endorsement for his stand. Accordingly, an appeal was made to the Maoists to release the cops on the assurance that the state government was ready for peace talks. This left little room for political blame game. This was crucial in view of the forthcoming election and he did a spending job.
The next day brought bad news. One cop in the Maoists’ custody had been killed. Nitish stood firm and refuse to buckle even as television channels showed the body of the cop. Whether he had bargained for this or not, there was a dramatic and unprecedented turn of events. Several Maoist sympathizers issued statement condemning killing of the cops.
Soon came the good news. The Maoists declared that they would release rest of the cops without any condition. Monday morning, the cops were back and a beaming Nitish told the media that “there was no deal”.
He also said he was firm on an unconditional talk too.
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