Biswajit Roy


The CPI (Maoist) has justified the killing of Karma citing ‘revenge on behalf of the more than 1000 innocent tribals who were killed during the Salwa Judum and thousands who lost their homes’. According to the party release, Patel deserved his death due to his role in para-military deployment. Sukla too was in their hit list for pursuing the anti-people policies. Maoists regretted the killings of ‘innocent lower-rung Congress workers’ and offered sympathies to their families [1]


But the savagery of Karma’s murder, as the party rejoiced his killing like a ‘dog’ and number of stabbings and bullets he had suffered after he had reportedly surrendered to the guerrillas is quite numbing. His killers reportedly kicked his body and danced in joy around the corpse.  The accumulated anger of Salwa Judum victims notwithstanding, the brutality has once again blurred the distinction between Karma’s ‘Koya commandos’ and the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army who had been claiming higher morality in revolutionary war.


The planting of belly-bombs in the dead-bodies of fallen CRPF jawans in Jhankhand few months back and its bizarre justification, even after a one of the booby-trapped body exploded killing innocent villagers, only underlined the rebels’ desperation to match their enemy forces in barbarity. Both sides have shown shocking disrespect to their dead adversaries in complete disregard to Geneva Convention and other international codes of war.


Also, Maoist’s mere expression of regret over the killing other ‘lower-rung’ Congressmen smacks of the same insensitivity, inhumanity and hypocrisy which the mainstream politicians exhibit in case of the killing of innocent villagers during real or fake encounters between the security forces and the guerrillas. For revolutionaries too, non-targeted hits are only the collateral damages.


The Maoist sympathizers in human rights movement had condemned the booby-trapping of the dead jawans in Jharkhand. But this time, we have not come across any such denunciation so far. Perhaps Karma and his Salwa Judum men’s crimes weighted down the burden on their consciences.


No doubt that the successful ambush is a huge morale-booster for Maoist rank and file who had suffered series of major losses at the hand of the security forces and their collaborators since the murders of their two top leaders, Azad and Kishenji. But the guerrillas’ glee over the killing of Karma and other Congress leaders and consequent postponement of both BJP’s Bikashyatra and Congress’ ‘Paribartan Yatra’ would be short-lived. There is no prize for guessing that the Maoists have invited the more lethal reprisal at the expense of the hapless tribals and themselves.


The self-proclaimed leaders of Indian revolution would hope for the renewal of the cycle of competitive violence at their terms to trigger the political polarization in order to further their cause. Both sides would again demand rest of the country to declare which side we belong: “with us or them’? Surely, it would further shrink the democratic space for the largely non-violent peoples’ resistance against the neo-liberal developmental violence.


The Predicament of Civil Society Groups


Various civil society groups have condemned the Maiost killing of the Congress leaders including Karma while reminding the governments and mainstream politicians about earlier murders of tribals and Maoist cadres by the security forces and their private collaborators. Ironically the government camp would dismiss them as apologists for the ultras while the Maoists would also decry them as the proponents of ‘sandwich theory’. Neither side believes in independent third voice and insists every heretic to fall in line and join the rank of faithful to their respective cause.


Medha Patkar, Prafulla Samantara, Dr. Sunilam, Arundhati Dhuru, Gabriele Dietrich and other leading lights of the National Alliance of Peoples Movements in a statement said: “Once again in the ongoing politics of offensive and counter offensive between State and Maoists, adivasis have lost their lives…. Adivasis caught in the armed conflict have been the worst victim of this war of control over resources, territory and sovereignty.[2]


Condemning the ambush and the killings, the NAPM said: “Mahendra Karma, openly supported Salwa Judum, a violent outfit and the same violence has killed him. This is tragic, yet a telling fact.”


“Life of those in power and leadership are important and so are the lives of common adivasis who are being tortured, jailed and killed by Security forces and Maoists alike. In the ongoing conflict both claim to represent the interests and work for Adivasis but their stance and means has only alienated them and perpetrated injustice on them. …In the same Durma valley where the attack by Maoists killed Congress leaders, state administration violated all the existing laws and procedures to facilitate land grab for Tata Steel.” [2]


The statement further pointed out: “ even while, politicians across the political spectrum are terming this as an attack on democracy, let us not forget that every time an adivasi is jailed, killed, their houses burnt, women raped and their schools occupied to facilitate resource grab or termed as collateral damage in the ‘Operation Green Hunt‘, democracy is attacked and the faith of citizens in the State’s ability to uphold justice and rule of law, shaken. Violence on both sides is condemnable and should be avoided forever.”[2]


Fearing that the ‘latest ambush will now be used by the state to justify further militarisation in the region’ it said that such moves will make ‘the lives of Adivasis more difficult’. Opposing both the state and non-state violence, it further noted: “There is an urgent need for political intervention and dialogue. The guns of State or Maoists will not solve the problem…. [It] will ultimately have an impact on the democratic norms and freedom of citizens elsewhere in the country, as seen in shrinking spaces for non-violent, democratic movements and arrest of activists. Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi and many others are braving brutality as a result of the war promoted by the state and Maoists, both.”[2]


Pointing out that the ‘swiftness with which the centre has promised all help in this regard and dispatched a large number of security forces,’ the NAPM said : “ if the same urgency was shown for providing justice to the victims of Salwa Judum in all these years, Indian state would have won a bigger political battle by now. Awards, compensation and martyrdom will be bestowed on those killed by Maoists but Adivasis victims of this collateral damage and those languishing in jail need justice too. There is an urgent need to address that otherwise situation will only deteriorate”. [2]


The Chhattisgarh PUCL also ‘strongly condemn[ed] the attack by suspected Maoists on the convoy of Congress Party leaders.’ Making a ‘principled stand opposed to violence and the politics of killings and abduction,’ the statement issued by Sudha Bharadwaj, General Secretary of Chhattisgarh PUCL, also reminded the killing of 8 villagers on 17th May. “For the first time, the police actually admitted that those who were attacked were innocent and instituted an enquiry,’’ she said also referring union tribal affairs ministers’ letters.[3]


Others not that sympathetic to Maoists raised a pertinent question resonating the debates within the human rights movement in India and aboard. “The killing of senior state Congress leaders and their cadre is particularly barbaric and reprehensible as they had, in the course of the Maoist ambush, become captives or had surrendered voluntarily. This is tantamount to cold-blooded murder of prisoners in custody, an act that goes against all norms even in a state of civil or international wars. It is also most foul as Maoists have tried to stop political activity they do not agree through violent means.The latest Maoist action will only invite even more state repression in the area,’’ said the signatories of a statement. [4]


They included Delhi-based  academics Dilip Simeon, Abha Dev Habib, Apoorvanand, Vinod Raina , as well as  human rights activists Kavita Srivastava, Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Shabnam Hashmi and Journalist Satya Sivaraman.


According to them,  “the CPI(Maoist) leadership, which authorized the attack, seem to have cynically calculated that such increased repression will swell their numbers and help their movement grow. If that is the case then their politics is as evil as those they claim to be fighting against and should be shuned by all those who stand for democratic norms in political struggles for peace with justice. We call upon the Congress Party, the state and central governments to exercise great restraint in their response to the Maoist atrocity.”[4]


Late K Balagopal, the noted Human rights activist had raised the same questions about the double standard of Maoist refusal to allow mainstream parties to campaign during the polls while demanding the same democratic rights for propagating the revolutionary views. While lambasting the apologists of State-supported Salwa Judum, he had refused to accept the Maoist claims that the all the tribal traditional leaders who had opposed them were reactionary.


So far, a CPI (ML) group also condemned the ambush. KN Ramachandran, general secretary of the CPI(ML) said: “It is infantile on the part of Maoists to think that by killing Mahendra Karma they can take revenge against Salwa Judum or other atrocities perpetuated against the adivasis and other oppressed sections. If Karma took initiative in putting forward the Salwa Judum, it was the BJP led state government and central forces which implemented it.  Instead of targeting the ruling system, and Congress, BJP like parties who implement the reactionary policies by heading central and state governments, Maoists are indulging in anarchist attacks which is serving the ruling system  as a cover to attack the democratic movements and the adivasi people, to help the land grabbing and mining of Essar, Jindal, Tata like corporates.” [5]


The CPIML (Liberation) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya criticized both the hypocrisy of Congress top guns as well as the ‘militarism’of the Maoists. [6]


He questioned the prime minister Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for calling the Maoist killing of  Karma and other Congress leaders , as an ‘attack on  democracy’  [They]  must be asked if Mahendra Karma and Salwa Judum, declared ‘unconstitutional’ by the Supreme Court,  represented ‘democracy’?


He pointed out that the Salwa Judum, flouting the Supreme Court ordering it to be disbanded, continues to be operational under a variety of pretexts, with the tacit support of the Central Government. “In Chhattisgarh, then, the worst and most flagrant attacks on democracy are being launched by its supposed custodians, the State and Central Governments and the security forces. Was it democracy?”


He reminded that ‘while one cannot condone the killing of innocent or abducted  people, the Maoist attack on May 25 surely cannot be seen in isolation from the political context of Chhattisgarh where the State has given up even the pretence of upholding Constitutional norms or democratic rights.” Referring to the killings of eight tribals a week before, he said: “These atrocities were never ever described by India’s or Chhattisgarh’s rulers as ‘attacks on democracy’.


Nonetheless, Bhattacharya pulled up the CPI (Maoist) for its ‘militaristic actions’ which he felt ‘were isolated from democratic movements and political assertion, are  counterproductive in developing any mass resistance to the Government’s policies of corporate plunder, Salwa Judum and Operation Green Hunt.’


He warned that ‘the Governments of Chhattisgarh and the Centre have already begun to use the latest Maoist attack as a pretext to propose Army deployment and even of Air Force strikes and drone attacks’. “The Governments cannot be allowed to dress up such an unconscionable war on the adivasi people as a ‘war on Maoists’. Instead, there must be an immediate scrapping of  Operation Green Hunt, Withdrawal of former SPOs from the Chhattisgarh police force, and

criminal action initiated against all those, including police personnel and Salwa Judum cadre, who stand accused of rape and killing.”


1. The Telegraph, 24 May, 2013 .

2. The NAPM release,

3. The PUCL statement from Raipur, 25 May.

4. The ‘statement condemning the Maoist Politics of Murder in Chattisgarh’,, 27 May

5. CPI(ML) statement,

6. The Worst Attacks on Democracy Are Conducted by Its Supposed Custodians.


(Frontier V. 45, June 3, 2013)

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