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India: Concerned Citizens Statement on Maoist attack on police camp in West Bengal

22 February 2010

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We the undersigned would like to express our deep concern at the ongoing conflict in the Jangalmahal area of West Bengal where forces of the CPI (Maoist) and the Indian government have been confronting each other for the past year.

The regular incidents of violence have resulted in the tragic loss of too many lives already — both of combatants and innocent civilians — and needs to come to an immediate end. The systematic annihilation of
opponents and the gross violations of human rights by both sides in the conflict are a serious setback to the task of building a more just and humane Indian society.

In this context the attack by the CPI (Maoist) cadre on the Silda police camp in West Bengal on 15 February killing 24 policemen represents a severe escalation of an already ugly situation in the Jangalmahal area. Coming at a time when there are active attempts being made by many sections of civil society to get the Indian government to call off its proposed ‘Operation Green Hunt’ against the Maoists this provocative act by the latter can only result in a hardening of attitudes all around.

While there are many genuine grievances of the local population against the West Bengal state government and the security forces operating in the tribal areas of West Midnapore – including arbitrary arrests and killings— none of them can be used to justify the latest Maoist action. In fact the purely military methods adopted by the CPI (Maoist) are inimical to the task of finding both short and long-term political solutions to the long-standing problems of the local people.

Use of violence for political goals, however lofty, cannot mean violation of fundamental principles of humanity and there are also basic norms and conventions that need to be adhered to. Every such killing and violation adds to the spiral of grief, trauma and revenge that is already consuming our polity; and from which the common people desperately need relief.

Monday’s attack on the Silda police camp also represents a contradiction of the CPI (Maoist)’s own stated position, through media interviews of its top most leaders, of the need for talks with the government of India and the prevention of an ‘all out war’. The massacre of police personnel also shows a lack of seriousness on the part of the CPI (Maoist) about its own publicly stated demand that for ‘any kind of democratic work, the ban on the Party and Mass Organizations have to be lifted’.

The Indian State too should immediately stop all its violations of human rights in the Jangalmahal area, sincerely settle the problems of the local people and not use the latest Maoist attack as an excuse to go ahead with further intensification of the conflict.

We the undersigned sincerely hope for a quick and peaceful resolution to the conflict, which is putting at grave risk the lives of a very large number of innocent people trapped between the Maoists and the Indian State.

Prof. A. Marx, Chennai
- Bhaskar Vishwanathan, Chennai
- Praful Bidwai, New Delhi
- Dilip Simeon, New Delhi
- Apoorvanand, New Delhi
- Aditya Nigam, New Delhi
- Nivedita Menon, New Delhi
- Amit Sengupta, New Delhi
- Satya Sivaraman, New Delhi