Panelists root for stern anti-Naxal policy

Negotiations to solve the menace of Naxalism got a thumbs down at a seminar in the Capital on Thursday.

The panel, which included retired bureaucrats having first-hand experience of tackling the Naxal threat, stressed on devising a stern anti-Naxal policy. Former Union Home Secretary GK Pillai said that Naxalism was a wake-up call for Indian democracy and lamented that most of the political parties have failed to gauge the magnitude of the problem. “By instigating the tribals against the Government, the Naxals have created a political vacuum. The gap can be filled only by the political parties and not by the security forces,” Pillai said. He was speaking at a round table discussion on ‘State’s Response to Hostage Situations’ organised by the India Foundation.

Urging upon the authorities to adopt a zero-tolerance approach, Pillai said the Government should put in place a strict policy to deal with hostage situations like the one framed for dealing with aircraft hijacks. “The authorities have to negotiate with the Naxals, but a clear message should be sent across that causing any harm to hostages would mean a death warrant of the people whose release is being sought. The Naxals won’t come to talks unless severe pressure is exerted on them,” he added.

Former Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh Nirmala Buch said the State is in a very difficult situation in case of a hostage scenario, but maintained that the State should be very clear regarding its course of action. “In hostage situations, the Government should never talk from a position of weakness. It has to be very clear about what it has to do,” said Buch, who mediated with the Naxals to facilitate the release of Sukna District Collector from captivity in May this year. “There has been a tremendous distrust between the Government and the society. The people have no access to Government. In the absence of a mechanism, they look up to those outside the system,” Buch said.

Earlier, Dr Chandan Mitra, Member of Parliament and Editor-in-Chief of The Pioneer, gave an overview of the menace, saying the Naxalites aimed to overthrow the State and run a parallel Government.

“The Naxals believe in a authoritarian version of the State. They have found support in several distinguished persons from society which includes artists, littérateurs and doctors, among others. But it is their shrinking mass support that is leading to hostage situations so that they can make the Government succumb to their pressure,” Mitra said. Vishwa Ranjan, former Director General of Police in Chattisgarh, said the menace of Naxalism could only be tackled by use of force.
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