On March 31, a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) blast left seven CRPF jawans killed, disfigured and mutilated, merely 15 kilometers from the district headquarters of Dantewada in Bastar division. This has once again brought to the fore the dubious methods of armed struggle adopted by the Maoists.
This is not a naïve tactic of guerrilla Maoists. It has been one of their most potent weapons since 1987 when they first learnt to lay ambushes and deploy landmines from an LTTE trainer. Most of the casualties of the security men have been caused by such ghastly blasts.
This is clearly a deliberate and gross violation of humanitarian laws and not just a simple attack on the security forces, and it must be condemned vehemently by one and all. In fact, use of landmines is banned internationally as these are non-discriminatory, lack precision and cause unnecessary sufferings.
India is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions as well as the Hague Convention which regulate the means employed during warfare so that unnecessary casualties could be reduced.
In this regard, Protocol-II of the Geneva Conventions provided for minimum protection to victims of armed conflicts not of an international character. However, despite India not signing Protocol-II to the Geneva Conventions (that apply to int-ernal armed conflicts) due to some dom-estic compulsions, these international treaties have almost acquired the status of customary law, which every country is bound to implement.
The Maoists in India are notorious for the extensive use of explosive devices including pressure IEDs which cause indiscriminate casualties. During the last general elections, they blasted an ambulance, killing the civilian driver and technician along with five CRPF jawans, and leaving many others injured in Bastar.
In another incident on the same day, a blast ripped through a civilian bus killing seven polling personnel on the spot and leaving an equal number injured. The Maoists even embedded an IED in the body of a CRPF jawan in Latehar district of Jhark-hand and attached a solar plate to trigger the ignition.
In a March 2014 interview, the Maoists’ spokesperson Abhay (a pseudonym) condemned previous attempts of peace talks initiated by the government but clarified the Maoists’ stand towards any peace talks in the future.
Among many pre-requisites, the first and the foremost condition imposed by the Maoists was that their movement should be accepted as a political one and seen as an internal conflict in the nature of a civil war according to international laws. Other demands inter-alia included lifting of the government ban on their organisations, a judicial enquiry into the killing of their senior cadre, and the release of their impri-soned comrades.
But waging a war against a democratic nation can neither be termed as an internal conflict nor can it be seen as a political movement within the constitutional framework. Yet they continue to claim that they are fighting a civil war, despite being involved in gross violation of international humanitarian laws.
The Maoists, in all their senior level meetings since 2013, have realised and admitted that their membership in Dandakaranya and many other regions has been continuously declining. The trend of declining recruitment and increasing desertions, as a result of the stark realisation among cadres and supporters of fighting a losing and unethical war, has already set in and has caused frustration in the Maoist leadership.
The Union home minister has welcomed the Maoists for peace talks if they shun violence and lay down their arms. Therefore, if the Maoists really wish their movement to be treated as a political one, they must abjure violence, abandon the use of IEDs in conformity with interna-tional human-itarian laws, and join the political mainstream to achieve their ideological ambitions of establishing a classless society with the democratic support of the nation’s electorate.
(This article first appeared in the print edition under the headline ‘By Inhumane Means’)