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Forgotten Victims

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Five security personnel were killed and several grievously injured in a landmine attack by Naxalites in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district on Tuesday. This was the second major attack in one year. While social media was up in arms over very important issues such as wearing of torn jeans, it has chosen to remain deafeningly silent on this issue. TV news crews have significantly failed to report the impact of the tragedy on the families of the victims. That men in uniform die in the course of their duty is taken for granted by what constitutes ‘mainstream’ society these days.

Quite obviously, when such elements of life become ‘invisible’ to the people, the motivation to deal with them cannot be built up. Sadly, in the popular narrative over decades, the Naxalites and Maoists have been depicted in heroic terms – their cult strenuously built up in university campuses. They are provided support in direct and indirect ways by committed cadres belonging to several political parties. It is accepted as a given that the coming ‘revolution’ will be a bloody one and ‘class’ enemies are the legitimate target. Enormous expertise has been developed in providing legal and political support to such ‘activists’. Constitutional protections are twisted in numerous ways to present them as ‘victims’ of authoritarian rule, rather than the psychopathic killers most of them are.

These terrorist groups also receive support from foreign agencies inimical to India’s interests, particularly those of Pakistan and China. The network is spread across India. Other groups with agendas of their own assist in alienating marginal sections of society, such as tribals, from the mainstream. The judiciary’s failings have also ensured that the security forces have been denied preventive powers, thereby raising the stakes to more lethal levels. Cops in India do not even have the power to handcuff suspects without a magistrate’s orders – a globally unique situation. The banning of Salwa Judum deprived the tribals and others of the means to defend themselves and assist the government forces.

All of this is because urban society, which holds much of the decision making powers, does not experience the difficulties in the rural and remote areas and so cannot empathise. All it learns is from the doctored narratives. There is also a lack of consensus in the political class on dealing with such problems, partly because governments often come to power by compromising with even these anti-national elements. The price for this strategic failure is being paid by the silent heroes, who die in the anonymity of a forest skirmish, ‘unwept and unhonoured and unsung’, which should have been the fate of their enemies in a more feeling land.