Dateline: Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand
In 1989, former Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Dennis La Fontaine, who had chosen to settle down in rural Andhra Pradesh, was robbed of his pistol by the Maoists. He was tied to a chair and he later wondered whether the thieves were revolutionaries or dacoits.
Twelve years down the line, in November 2001, he was again robbed of another pistol.
Comparing the two incidents, La Fontaine said: "The confidence of the teenagers this time was much higher because they were better armed." In 1989, the gang "seemed a ragtag bunch while this one came in jungle fatigues, boots and caps". The State, however, did not show any resolve to tackle the menace of Maoism in the intervening years.
Now, the latest victim is a Group Captain of the Air Force, R K Prasad. He was made to pay Rs 10 lakh for the release of his brother who was kidnapped by the Maoists in Jharkhand this year. The officer wrote to the Home Minister and was subsequently given a very patient hearing by the Defence Minister and the Defence Secretary.
Armed forces personnel hailing from the Red Corridor have been subjected to intimidation and extortion by the Maoists for at least two decades now. The families of the servicemen are being forced to part with their hard-earned money to fill the coffers of the Maoists.
Image: A young Indian tribal supporter of Jharkhand Party (Naren) carries a party flag as he takes part in a last-minute campaign through the 'Jangal Mahal' (Forest area) of Belpahari, some 260kms south of Kolkata, 15 April 2006. Picture copyright AFP. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.Also see: The Maoists, the centipede and the owl | Maoist threat: Deploy the Babus, not army