Just a day after India’s Home Minister P. Chidambaram declared that Naxalite violence will not disrupt the Oct. 13 elections in Maharashtra state, the guerillas struck Gadchiroli district Oct. 8, killing 17 police officers. A 300-strong band of Naxals attacked a 40-man patrol of police and commandos of the elite anti-Naxal force C-60, just a kilometer from the Lahiri police station. A pitched battle ensued for four hours.
In another act of apparent Naxalite violence that day, police scout Suresh Halame was beheaded in Malewada village, in north Gadchiroli. An armed group stormed his home and dragged him out before hacking his head off in front of other villagers. The Maoist guerillas have launched a threatening propaganda campaign since the recent arrest of ideologue Kobad Ghandy—warning the authorities through posters and pamphlets to release their leader or face the consequences.
Authorities have rushed reinforcements to Lahiri—over 3,500 police and Border Security Forces personnel. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Oct. 11 said the government would not deploy the armed forces against the guerillas under any circumstances, and said the central government is prepared to talk to the Naxals.
“Despite Naxalism being the single biggest internal security threat, the military will not be used to counter it,” Singh said. His statement follows a request from Air Chief Marshal PV Naik seeking permission for the Indian Air Force patrol helicopters to fire back at Naxalites in self-defense.
In response to a call by Home Minister P. Chidambaram for the Naxalites to lay down their arms and come to the dialogue table, one of their top leaders, Koteswar Rao AKA “Kishenji“, has proposed to have a ceasefire. In a TV interview, he ruled out the possibility of laying down arms. “The question of laying down arms does not arise at all. It is against our principle,” Kishenji said. However, aware that the government Is planning a major offensive against them across several states, he offered to have a ceasefire to prepare the ground for dialogue. (Times of India, Oct. 12; Business Standard, Oct. 10; Hindustan Times, Oct. 8)