India: anti-Naxalite offensive escalates violence

Up to 11 villagers, including a child, were killed when a group of over 200 Naxalite guerillas attacked a village in Jamui, Bihar, late Feb. 17. The attack reportedly came in retaliation for the killing of eight Naxalites by the villagers a fortnight ago. (Indian Express, Feb. 19) A day earlier, Naxalite gunmen on motorcycles and pickup trucks killed 24 paramilitary officers in a daylight ambush against an encampment of the Eastern Frontier Rifles in West Bengal. (NYT, Feb. 16)

The attacks come as Indian paramilitary troops and state police have launched a large offensive against the Maoist rebels across five states—West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. (BBC News, Jan. 22)

But the offensive, dubbed “Operation Green Hunt,” only seems to have escalated the violence—leading the Deccan Herald to editorialize Feb. 19, “Halt the hunt—Offer of talks with Maoists should be genuine”:

If the government was hoping that ‘Operation Green Hunt’ would intimidate the Maoists into submission, it is mistaken. The latter have repeatedly signalled that they will not be cowed down by the government’s show of security strength. Rather, as their attack in Bengal on Monday shows they are striking with renewed ferocity.

Both, the government and Maoist leaders are saying they are open to talks. But the government wants the Maoists to abjure violence and the latter while insisting on unconditional talks, want ‘Operation Green Hunt’ to be halted. Both are being disingenuous, expecting of the other what they themselves are unwilling to do.

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