The last six weeks have seen a series of deadly attacks on security forces and civilians by the Maoists or Naxalites, the insurgent group present in eight states, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describes as the gravest threat to India.
While the Maoists claim they are fighting a war on behalf of landless tribals, their opponents call them armed terrorists exploiting tribal sentiments.
In their worst-ever attack on April 6, Maoists massacred 76 Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. In another murderous attack on May 17, they killed 40 civilians and special police officers in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh.
The recent attacks have left Union Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram grappling with the most serious internal security crisis on his watch.
As the government revisits its anti-Maoist strategy with Congress party President Sonia Gandhi advocating a redressal of the root causes of the problem, the debate on how to tackle the issue has gained in significance in the public space.
Sociologist Nandini Sundar has been doing research on Adivasi issues for the last twenty years. She is the author of Subalterns and Sovereigns: An Anthropological History of Bastar (1854-2006). Along with two others she filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court in 2007 against the excesses of the Salwa Judum, the anti-Maoist organisation of tribals in Chhattisgarh.
In this interview with Girija Shivakumar, Sundar, a professor at Delhi University, argues how the home minister has no grasp of the situation and highlights the importance of peace talks in finding a solution.