A nice essay by Shekar Gupta in the Indian Express today about the India government's response to the Maoists attack on a group of campaigning Congress leaders in Chattisgarh. As he correctly points out, not even the ruling party -- let alone the ruling coalition -- is united about how to fight the Maoists and indeed, apparently whether they should be fought at all. Though many of the worthies in the Congress, including Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and even Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh attacked the Maoists and characterized them correctly as terrorists, others such K.C. Deo and Digvijaya Singh were true to form, making partisan attacks and looking for what Gupta calls 'root cause' theories.
Another indicator of the difference within the government is the viewpoint of the semi-government, leftist-National Advisory Council (NAC) which is supposed "to provide inputs in the formulation of policy by the government." The NAC includes people who criticize the government for fighting the Maoists and are great exponents of the root cause theory. Even when NAC members themselves are targeted, with Maoists letters openly threatening some of them, the first response from some of their sympathizers is that it must be either a mistake or because the Maoists have no control over their cadres.
The point is that the Maoists have only one, and rather Quixotic aim: overthrowing the Indian state. And there is only one solution to deal with them: militarily defeat and eliminate the hardcore so that the rest can be brought into the political mainstream. This does not mean that there are no social or economic issues with regard to poor governance or the general condition of tribals and other disadvantaged groups in India's hinterlands. The condition in which such disadvantaged Indians live, six decades after India's independence, should be a source of abiding shame. But for the Maoists, they represent nothing more than an opportunity and an excuse. The Maoists represent as much of a solution to the problems facing various rural communities as their cousins the Khmer Rouge did in Cambodia. But given the nature of centre-state relations which prevents proper coordination between different agencies and the poor quality of various paramiltary and special police forces (with exceptions such the AP Police Greyhounds), I expect that the situation will get a lot worse before it gets better.