The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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To publicly attribute sheer good luck to a particular deity is not an appealing trait among politicians of a secular republic. At the same time, there is no doubt that Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu’s escape has been truly fortunate for his own state and for the country in general. India, embattled by internal subversive attacks throughout its length and breadth, can well do without a signal extremist victory. Mr Naidu is one of the most determined and uncompromising fighters against extremism, apart from being an efficient and thoughtful administrator of his own state. A successful attack upon him would have had symbolic overtones. The extremists, who so meticulously laid 17 claymore mines on the sides of Tirumala ghat road months ago in order to set them off when the chief minister’s convoy passed, were aiming to take out one of their greatest foes. But they were also trying to proclaim their superiority over the machinery of the state and the triumph of disorder over order.

The frightening thing here, of course, is that they almost succeeded. The police had had no idea that their deep-search metal detector had failed to detect the deep-laid mines when the route was checked. The level of security accorded to the chief minister apparently does not permit the two flank cars and the jammer in the convoy when he is travelling in the districts. The security planners have to work out whether this is logical, since the ultra-left extremists Mr Naidu is fighting operate rather well outside the cities. The state of intelligence and police vigilance has to be reexamined, not just in Andhra Pradesh, but in other vulnerable parts of the country as well. Grappling with extremist activity is not easy, but there is no need to perpetuate the cycle of violence or encourage people’s sympathy for the extremists either. Unfortunately, the fight against the People’s War in Andhra Pradesh has led to a series of “encounter” killings by the police. Such an approach does not help. It merely gives the People’s War or organizations of its kind a theme to build on, where they should be given no such chance. Mr Naidu’s escape was lucky, it is to be hoped that the right lessons are drawn from it.

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