Chhattisgarh: Congress divided over Naxal terrorism issue? This is not the first time

Some Congress leaders even have had problems with Naxals being called 'terrorists'.

Recently, Kawasi Lakhma, the minister for excise and industry in Chhattisgarh cabinet, has written in a letter to CM Bhupesh Baghel that a recent incident in Bastar, where a woman was killed and another was injured after being caught in the ‘crossfire’ as claimed by the security forces during an encounter with Naxals, was a fake encounter.

Lakhma has claimed in his letter that the women were not caught in the crossfire as claimed by the CRPF and the district police, but the security forces fired on them deliberately, suspecting them of being Naxals. The incident had occurred on February 2. Sukki, an Adivasi woman was killed while another, named Kalmu was grievously injured.

Lakhma has reportedly written that the families should be compensated and incidents like this would make the Adivasis ‘lose their confidence’ in the government. He has also asked for action to be taken against the CRPF personnel involved in the shooting. The encounter had happened in the Gudelguda village in the Polampalli region.

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There are some conflicting narratives at play here because, as per reports, the Sukma district administration has already stated that the women were not Naxals but villagers who were caught in the crossfire and got injured. Sukma SP Jitendra Shukla has also conveyed the same.

Soni Sori, a tribal leader in the area, who happens to be in the Aam Aadmi Patry, also claimed that the CRPF men tried to dress one of the women in a Naxal uniform even as she lay injured.

Lakhma has reportedly also written in his letter that no incriminating material or weapons were recovered from the women, which is natural because the security forces have stated that the women were not Naxals but villagers who were caught in the crossfire during an encounter. However, Lakhma, a cabinet minister and five-time MLA from the region going against his own state government to claim ‘fake encounter’ shows that something is amiss.

This is not the first time Lakhma had alleged a fake encounter. In August 2018, Congress, then in the opposition, had claimed that the Sukma encounter by CRPF, where 15 Naxals were allegedly killed, was a fake encounter too. Congress had even formed an 18-member team to look into the encounter where Lakhma was a member too. He had claimed that after Congress comes to power, it will examine the veracity of the encounter.

Interestingly, then too, Soni Sori, the AAP leader, had also called the encounter fake.

SSP Sukma had later released the video evidence of the encounter.

Congress had claimed during the August 2018 encounters that the BJP government in the state is against the tribals of the state and is creating ‘fake encounters’ to paint innocent villagers as Naxals.

However, it is interesting to note that even during UPA rule, Lakhma and some leaders of the Chhattisgarh Congress had claimed ‘fake encounters’ and have been actively involved in campaigning against the CRPF and security forces in the area.

in June 2012, 19 Naxals were gunned down by the security forces in the Dantewada. P Chidambaram was the Union home minister and he had mentioned to the media that three prominent Maoist leaders, Somulu, Nagesh and Mahesh were killed in that gun battle.

Soon, however, several ‘activists’, including Swami Agnivesh, PUCL President Prabhakar Sinha and CPIM alleged that the encounters were fake and the CRPF had killed innocent people in cold blood.

Also read: Demystifying the ‘Civil Society’: Foreign-funded organizations campaigning against Indian sedition laws

RK Singh, who was the then union home secretary, pointed it out that 6 CRPF personnel had received bullet wounds in what was being alleged as a ‘fake’ encounter but Chhattisgarh Congress leaders were not convinced. Congress party, even at the national level, took a safe stand and formed another ‘fact-finding committee’.

AICC CG in charge BK Hariprasad had even downplayed Chidambaram’s announcement and stated that he was merely quoting from the state government’s report. Congress soon took a very dubious stand on the issue and started commenting that it was the BJP-led state government who was ‘misleading’ the center on the issue. Chhattisgarh PCC had called the encounters ‘completely fake’.

Some Congress leaders even have had problems with Naxals being called ‘terrorists’.

Also read: Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar calls Naxals ‘revolutionaries fighting for their rights

Kawasi Lakhma was made the head of the 12 fact-finding finding team. Over the years, Lakhma has been involved in many such teams and his stand over anti-Naxals operation has remained the same, that the CRPF is targeting innocent Adivasis.

In 2013, almost the entire top brass of Chhattisgarh Congress was wiped out when over 250 Naxals ambushed a convoy of Congress leaders in the Jiram ghat area near Jagdalpur. 27 people were killed, mostly senior Congress leaders from the state. Interestingly, Kawasi Lakhma, the MLA from Konta, was the only one who has managed to survive. Lakhma was even suspected of involvement and was also questioned later, but was cleared in the NIA probe for lack of proof.

Over the last few years, the Chhattisgarh Congress had targeted the CRPF and the BJP government several times, claiming they have been organising fake encounters and even going to the extent of calling them anti-Adivasi. But the 2012 incident also proved that when comes to playing Naxal politics, Congress can even ignore its own statements and responsibilities and indulge in fanning the anti-CRPF narratives.

Now, a Congress government rules in Chhattisgarh. The NDA government was credited with achieving remarkable success in anti-Naxal operations over the years. But as the letter by Lakhma again threats to expose the Congress internal politics and disagreements over an issue as sensitive as Naxal terrorism, the question that arises it, whether the conviction and the strength of planning and execution that is the need for effective dealing of the left-wing terrorism issue, will be diluted and lost in blatant politics of the Congress.

In a recent operation, 10 Naxals were killed in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur. So far, thankfully, there have been no ‘fact-finding teams’ investigating over the veracity of the encounters.

Left-wing terrorism has been plaguing the interiors of our country for decades. Is it the same lack of political unity and conviction that has resulted in their continued existence? Will the Congress, which has shown no qualms to claim ‘Hindu terror’ and tried to paint the RSS as a dreadful organisation every chance it gets, continue to compromise and play politics over such a grave threat on our national security?

As per a report by the US state department, the CPI(Maoist) is the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world, with 295 attacks in 2017 alone. It even ranks higher than the Boko Haram.

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