Thursday, June 13, 2024

Maoists and development


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The death of Kishanji is a blow to the Maoists in Jangalmahal. He was a key figure in the Lalgarh insurrection. How he was killed is beside the point. Mamata Banerjee has resiled from her policy of appeasement as tension has mounted between Maoists and the West Bengal government. Joint operations have resumed. Mamata had been in a very conciliatory mode since she became Chief Minister in May. She had suspended joint operations and also offered an attractive package for building hospitals, schools and infrastructure for development in the region. But the Maoists used the opportunity to regroup and gather strength. They refused to come to a conference table and continued to be on a killing spree.

It is not at all clear what the Maoists want. They say they are fighting the state for its neglect of the poor in Lalgarh. But obviously their militancy stands in the way of development. They are often destructive, demolishing schools, digging up roads and blocking access. They sometimes attack trains. The Gyaneshwari Express derailed by them last year killed 141 passengers. Undoubtedly the area in West Bengal where they are on the rampage is gripped by poor governance and lack of public services. But their violence hits those downtrodden who they are allegedly fighting for. Development is a must-jobs, healthcare and education are priorities. Mamata Banerjee has proposed recruitment of tribals among the police which is a good idea. But nothing can be done unless Maoists surrender arms and participate in meaningful talks to push the peace process forward.

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