Those who subvert the rule of law unleash forces that tend to consume them. A nemesis of sorts seems to be catching up with Jharkhand’s Maoists who have long held large parts of the state to ransom. Lynching their cadre cannot be a justified means of tackling the rebels. There is thus a cause for concern over recent incidents in Jharkhand in which activists of the outlawed People’s War Group of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) were lynched by enraged villagers. But the Maoists, who attributed these killings to state-sponsored resistance groups, have only themselves to blame for this turn of events. In the name of their “people’s war”, the rebels unleashed a reign of terror in areas controlled by them — forcibly seizing land, imposing penalties and even pronouncing death sentences on people daring to oppose them. Their violent ways to impose their will on defenceless people have set off a desperate reaction on the latter’s part. A rebel group that has declared a war on the state is hardly justified in crying foul if the state supports the village protection groups in self-defence.
But the Jharkhand administration needs a more holistic approach to the problem. It cannot be a good strategy to push common people to face the Maoists’ wrath. It remains the administration’s job to do so, though it would certainly need the people’s help in this. The best way to do this is to address the social and economic problems that drive aggrieved villagers to the Naxalites’ fold. Such an approach could go a long way in alienating the rebels from the common people. Both the PWG and the Maoist Communist Centre cynically exploit the villagers’ complaints about lack of basic amenities such as drinking water, healthcare or educational facilities. Social and economic inequalities too come in handy for their propaganda. It is true that the administration often does not reach out to the poorest people, thanks to bureaucratic inefficiency, corruption and the insensitivity of the ruling groups to the sufferings of the poor. The Maoist challenge has to be met by extending the rule of law and democratic politics to the grassroots. A caring administration is the best guarantee against the lure of lawlessness.