How to handle a hostage crisis

Nitish Kumar neither yielded an inch nor resorted to bravado

ajay

Ajay Singh | September 7, 2010



If firmness is shorn of political posturing and bravado, it is taken rather seriously. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar successfully proved in the hostage crisis that a mature, sagacious political conduct, not irrational flamboyance, is a rewarding recourse in statecraft. There is no doubt that as the hostage crisis unfolded the Nitish Kumar government was walking on a razor edge. But, despite intense pressure, the chief minister never displayed signs of impetuousness.

His first message to the Maoists was conveyed in unambiguous terms that conveyed that though he was willing to talk, he was not a pushover who would capitulate to any demand. In his first message, he reminded the Maoists of the Bihar government’s record on human rights and hoped that the Maoists would reciprocate.  In a strategy that concealed iron fist in velvet gloves, Kumar dismissed the possibility of releasing eight Maoists in exchange for the hostages.

Perhaps Nitish Kumar was well aware of the contradictions within the Maoists’ rank and file. He mobilised people’s opinion against the killing of Lucas Tete, a police sub-inspector, by the Maoists as a sign of desperation and brutality. There were definite signs of frustration in the left extremists’ camp when they realised the tactical mistake of killing Tete. On the other hand, Kumar continued to send across the message of engagement with the Maoists and offered talks to discuss the issue face to face. During the entire crisis, he sounded earnest without yielding an inch.

Clearly, the Maoists found people’s pressure too intense to resist. Intellectuals ranging from Mahashweta Devi and Arundhati Roy to democratic rights’ champions like GN Saibaba rallied around the efforts to get the hostages released. When the hostages were finally released, Nitish Kumar once again displayed  maturity and equanimity  which are the hallmarks of an evolved leader. He appealed to the Maoists to shun the path of violence and join the electoral battle. Once again he was cautious enough to not sound complacent and directed the state administration to be on its guard in view of the coming elections.  

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