By Sandeep Sahu
Any death is tragic. More so when the death is caused by a bullet. It doesn't matter who the deceased is. The killing of an Army jawan in the line of duty - whether in enemy firing or in a terrorist outrage - is as painful as the death of the Maoist youth who fell to the bullets of security personnel in the forests of the cut off area in Malkangiri district on Monday morning.
Watching the wife of dreaded Maoist leader Ramakrishna alias RK weeping on TV on Wednesday while in Malkangiri to receive the body of her young son Munna, who was killed in the encounter in the Bejingi forests on Monday, was heart-rending. It was no different than the weeping mothers of slain security personnel we have seen in the past. What she said was right too: her son was fighting against injustice and oppression. If we refuse to see her point, there is something fundamentally wrong with us.
One can argue and try to justify killings on either side. Those who are at the receiving end of alleged atrocities of security personnel - whether in the Kashmir valley or the forests of Central India - are entitled to believe that the killing of their tormentors is perfectly legitimate. Conversely, the security personnel, often at the receiving end of guerilla attacks by terrorists or Maoists, can hardly be faulted for believing that it was 'just desserts' for the latter.
It is a war out there and there is no room for any bleeding-heart sentimentalism on either side. But gloating over killings, as some are doing in the wake of Monday's 'encounter', is not something that can be condoned. It is as reprehensible as the alleged 'celebration' that took place in the JNU campus after 76 CRPF personnel were butchered by the Maoists in the forests of Chhattisgarh in 2010.
Part of the problem of perception is the rigid positions we often take. Those against extremism in any form - jihadi or left wing - would close their eyes to what is called 'state terror' and the alleged excesses of the security forces. On the other hand, those against state terror would maintain a deafening silence about the excesses committed by the extremists. It is this double standards that has hardened positions on both sides. Neither side has either the inclination or the patience to see if the other side has a point.
Caught as we are between these two extreme, seemingly irreconcilable positions, it is hard to find a middle ground where reason and rationale prevail.
It would be foolish to believe that Monday's 'encounter' has decimated the Maoists and Malkangiri is now well and truly free of the Maoist menace. If anything, we can brace for a retaliatory attack by the Maoists in the near future because violence has an uncanny tendency to beget violence.
The only way to end this endless cycle of violence is to go to the bottom of the issue, identify the reason(s) that propel people to take to guns and then try and eliminate those reason(s) - by working towards a complete overhaul of the existing socio-economic set up that is highly skewed against the poor, the dispossessed, the tribals, the Dalits and so on. A just society is the best guarantee against a class war and violence.