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Abducted Indian policemen walk free, but the Maoist problem remains

Three abducted Indian policemen walked free after eight days of a hostage drama in the eastern Bihar state. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar insisted that there had been no deal with the rebels.

Security analysts want more personnel to fight Maoists

Security analysts want more personnel to fight Maoists

Firecrackers bursted and drums were played. It was festival time for the families of the policemen as their long and agonising wait came to an end. Hundreds of people gathered outside the police station in Lakhisarai town, 175 kms from the state capital, to have a glimpse of the three surviving police officers who were abducted more than a week ago by Maoist rebels during a gun battle that left one policemen dead.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar under pressure

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar under pressure

The release came two days after the insurgents killed another police officer they had kidnapped, demanding that the Bihar state government free eight of their fighters. The state government rejected their demand but offered the rebel leaders safe passage if they agreed to talks. Soon after the release, chief minister Nitish Kumar, who was under severe pressure to begin negotiations with the rebels invited them to enter the election fray. Bihar goes to polls in November.

Already 450 victims this year

The simmering civil war between the Maoist revolutionaries and the state has been brutal on both sides. But the government’s tough line has not yielded dividends. In fact, it is the Maoists that seem to be gaining the upper hand at present, carrying out their acts of destruction - killing security personnel and blowing up railway lines - with impunity while the government appears helpless. As many as 450 people were killed in the first six months of this year alone.

Indian security forces guard the spot of a Maoist attack earlier this year

Indian security forces guard the spot of a Maoist attack earlier this year

The Communist Party of India - Marxist - are battling the Maoist rebels in parts of West Bengal. Their leader Sitaram Yechuri says the movement feeds off land disputes: "As long as the social inequities and basically the question of land are not addressed in major parts of the country, you will have a fertile basis for such movements to continue to develop and grow. So it has to be a combination of both: A law and order approach as well as an approach towards solving the social problems."

"Crush rebels"

Security analyst Ajay Sahni supports the use of force to fight the Maoist rebels. The example of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh shows that it is possible to crush the rebels, he says. "In Andhra Pradesh, it was not these small targeted special operations, not these few battalions of central forces sent in, it was a complete reinvention of the state policing system: An empowerment of the police station in every affected area across the state.

"There was not a single police station which was not fortified, empowered, provided adequate force, technology, arms, communication, transport and a mandate. And then they went in and wiped the Maoists out."

Others maintain that the security forces have failed to contain the rebels because they have never faced an ideologically driven rebellion in the forested regions in the heart of the country. All the other uprisings have been in peripheral areas, whether in the northeast or in Kashmir.

Author: Murali Krishnan

Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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