In a statement issued on April 16th 2018, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) claimed that the ‘National Policy and Action Plan’ to combat Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is ‘a multi-pronged strategy involving security and development related measures’. This new policy, apparently in place since the NDA government came to power at the centre, claims to have ‘zero tolerance towards violence coupled with a big push to developmental activities so that benefits of development reached the poor and vulnerable in the affected areas’. The statement talks of substantial improvement in the LWE scenario by indicating reduced incidents of violence over the last four years. Within a week of this statement to the press, several Maoists are killed in an alleged encounter in Gadchiroli district of Maharastra and, then, in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh. The Maharashtra state police immediately issued press notes and organised a press conference on April 24th declaring the operation an unmitigated success. A week later, Chhattisgarh police did the same. Even as the death count of Maoists kept rising, the police claimed that none of their personnel, primarily the elite C-60 force in Maharashtra and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), were seriously injured let alone killed in action.
In the hours following the alleged encounters, think tank executives started predicting ‘revenge attacks’ by the Maoists. One such report in a leading national daily went on to say, “(w)ithin the logic of war they (Maoists) are waging, executing dramatic retaliation for security forces’ success in Gadchiroli will certainly be high among their priorities. Revenge attacks may come wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself.” Meanwhile, talking heads on news channels, editorial teams in media houses and the police were scrambling to get their story straight and goose step to the narrative of the state.
Questions raised by independent journalists, lawyers, and human rights organisations in the days following the encounters seem to rankle the establishment. Can such large scale losses on one side be termed an ‘encounter’? If it was a large Maoist camp, how was no one captured alive? Besides contradictions in the police narratives, the official report and inquiry is throwing up inconsistencies in police action, forcing officials to run for cover. Since more is known about the incident in Gadchiroli, it is worthwhile to assess what happened in order unravel the purpose of such operations for security forces, its significance for the political establishment, the way in which the corporate owned media reports on it and, finally, its impact on the people of Gadchiroli.Disinheriting Adivasis.doc