Tuesday, April 29, 2008

COUNTER VIEW: Don't engage with terrorists

Reports that a high-powered committee appointed by the Planning Commission has recommended that the government hold peace talks with Naxalites are a cause for concern.

While some of the measures prescribed by the committee to counter the Naxal movement look like good advice, the idea that the state should confer legitimacy on what is essentially a bunch of terrorists by negotiating with them, is ridiculous.

Salwa Judum should be called off, yes. It amounts to vigilantism and only deepens the law and order problem in areas affected by Naxalite violence. It is also true that the Naxalite movement has managed to gain a foothold in tribal and hilly areas where the state has failed. But this does not mean that the government should compound its errors by agreeing to engage the Naxalites in talks.

A democratic government should attempt to resolve a conflict via diplomacy and negotiation. But not when the other party is a violent political movement that is opposed to the very existence of the state.

There are no calls to negotiate with Lashkar-e-Taiba or engage with Jaish-e-Mohammed. The Naxals are every bit as bad as those two organisations.

They want the destruction of the Indian state. There is nothing to gain from even trying to conduct a dialogue with them.

Contrary to what the committee has said, the Naxalite problem is a law and order issue. To sit across the negotiating table with the Naxal leadership will send a signal to the people in those areas that it is acceptable to resort to violence to make a point.

It would also legitimise the Naxal movement itself. Negotiation works only when all involved parties agree on certain basic principles and want an end to a conflict.

With the Naxalites, who don't believe that the state is a legitimate entity, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at a mutual point of agreement.

By talking to the Naxal leadership, the government would give stature to a terrorist organisation that has no intention of allowing Indians to ever live in peace

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