Justifying killing, a dangerous trend
Just a week after killing more than 30 Maoists who were in sleep in the cut off area of Malkangiri district in Odisha, eight SIMI activists were allegedly shot dead in cold blood when they were trying to escape from Bhopal Central Jail. While the ‘Operation All Out’ was carried out on Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) by Andhra Pradesh Greyhounds and Odisha Special Operation Group in the wee hours of last Monday, the ‘encounter’ was staged by Madhya Pradesh police a few hours after the SIMI prisoners escaped from the jail after killing one security guard and tying up hands and legs of another. Both the incidents proved that the security forces are killing the members of the banned organizations even when there was scope to catch them live.
Indian Constitution holds right to life of any individual citizen very precious and it does not give the State a right to kill even the members of banned organizations. The Hyderabad High Court on Monday made it clear admitting the habeas corpus petition filed by Sirisha alias Padma, wife of top Maoist leader Ramakrishna (RK) that a person, whether an ordinary citizen or a Maoist, is after all a human being.
There are reports that along with Maoists there were ten tribals near the venue of the plenary and all of them are missing. Both the ‘encounters’ merit probe by sitting judges of Supreme Court as demanded by activists and some political parties. However, the governments, in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, blindly justify the killings in the name of law and order.
Killing is always wrong. But, in war it is necessary. How could something be both immoral and necessary? Marine Captain Timothy Kudo of America who has been struggling for years to forget his Afghanistan days has put the question to himself in an article published by Washington Post on 25th January 2013. We are in the same predicament. Those who sympathize with the families of the Maoists who were killed in Malkangiri encounter may not have shed a tear when the Maoists killed 38 persons, including 32 Greyhound constables, when they were travelling in a boat by attacking with rockets in 2008 in Balimela forest. The anniversary of this incident is observed by the families of the killed every year on June 30. And those who wept when the constables were killed at the same Andhra Odisha Border (AOB) are now feeling that the deaths of the police personnel have been rightly avenged.
Let us go back to Timothy. He was doing graduation at New York University, when he was commissioned and deployed to work in Iraq in 2009 and then Afghanistan in 2010. He was trained as a soldier to kill people. One day he and his colleagues were in a street where they found two young men coming on a bike. The boys did not understand the signals and Timothy followed the manual and shot them dead. One of them was less than 16 years old. Timothy says he thinks about those two young boys every day. ‘I think of them some times when I am reading, watching a movie, most often when I am taking my shower or walking down my street in Brooklyn’, he says. He is also reminded of the Biblical command that says, “Thou shall not kill”.
There is nothing strange about it. But the soldier who killed people in war as a duty would have emotional problems afterwards. We are not aware of any police officer who killed Naxalites or Maoists in cold blood having emotional issues like not being able to sleep or eat or laugh. But in the US, the war veterans undergo depression. The Department of Veteran Affairs says one in every five Americans that committed suicide is a war veteran.
Veterans make only 13 percent of the US population. Timothy says ethical damage of war may be more lethal than the physical injuries we sustain. We see a war veteran with white moustaches in Arnab Goswamy’s show in Times Now channel wagging his finger and shouting that the Pakistanis would be taught a lesson. If the body of an Indian soldier is mutilated, Indian Army would retaliate by mutilating ten bodies of Pakistani soldiers, he declares loudly.
The discourse of violence has been going on ever since the surgical strikes took place to kill the terrorists in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The members of the family of the slain Indian soldier were shown on TV channels swearing that they want revenge, badla. Same kind of statements are issued by Maoist leaders saying that they would take revenge and target AP Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, his family members and his colleagues in politics. There were reports that celebrations took place on JNU campus when 76 CRPF jawans were butchered by Maoists in the forests of Chattisgarh in 2010. Those who support Left wing extremism would maintain stoic silence when extremists kill security forces. Jihad and left extremism on one side and the state terrorism on the other divide the society vertically. Neither side has either inclination or patience to see if the other side has a point.
No human being would be left unmoved on seeing Padma, wife of RK and mother of Munna, weeping at the dead body of her son. The scenes at the house of Abubakar, the Greyhound constable who was killed in the encounter, are equally moving. One would conclude, as did Timothy Kudo, that any killing is wrong. The Indian Constitution has given right to life. It did not give any one, not even the State, a right to kill. But Padma’s comment that she is proud of her son as he sacrificed his life in his fight against injustice and oppression cannot be ignored.
Every person who believes in democracy would like a society free of killings, retribution, poverty and exploitation. A just society is the best guarantee against class war and violence. Nobody can question the spirit of selflessness and sacrifice exhibited by the Maoists who are prepared to die for the oppressed and the exploited. But democracy gives top most priority to the Constitution and rule of law. It values the right to live (of security person as well as the ultra) more than any other right or obligation. It does not give authority either to the State or the rebels to kill. Nobody is allowed to take law into his hands.
Watching people justify killing of ordinary citizens in Kashmir valley or central India or North-East in the name of nationalism or patriotism, one would shudder to think of the future of this country. The war veterans in the US have at least a sense of remorse. Out veterans prefer to keep quiet or support the theory of elimination of enemy. Politicians would not mind going for a limited war for the sake of winning election. Since the UPA government described Maoists as “the single largest challenge to internal security’ and banned the organization branding it a terrorist outfit, the Maoists are treated as enemy, on par with the terrorists operating from Pakistani soil.
Since enemies are there to be killed, no mercy should be shown to Maoists and the ethical rules of just war are not applicable here. The rightist argument goes to the extent of justifying the attack by the Greyhounds on sleeping Maoists in the cut off area in Malkangiri district. Where this kind of mindset and perverse logic would lead the nation?