Anti-Maoist operation to regain lost areas: Government
The "special operations" against Maoist rebels were aimed at regaining lost areas and reasserting the authority of the civil administration, Home Minister P. Chidamabaram said as Centre sought to quell what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the "biggest internal security challenge".delhi Updated: Jan 22, 2010 19:43 IST
The "special operations" against Maoist rebels were aimed at regaining lost areas and reasserting the authority of the civil administration, Home Minister P. Chidamabaram said on Friday as the Indian state sought to quell what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the "biggest internal security challenge".
"(Our aim is) to reassert the civil administration to be followed immediately by development in areas dominated by Naxalites (Maoists) for quite some years," Chidambaram said after a meeting with top officials of Orissa, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, whose contiguous forested areas provide the staging ground for the ultra-left Maoists who now control or operate in a vast swathe of territory in east, central and southern India.
"The (anti-Maoist) operations will continue. Our goal is not to kill anyone but to reassert the civil administration to be followed immediately by development in areas dominated by Naxalites (as Maoists are also known) for quite some years," he said.
Chidambaram chaired a two-hour meeting at the state secretariat with chief ministers Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh and Navin Patnaik of Orissa, Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil and operational heads of paramilitary forces.
He said the central government was offering troops and technology to states to take on the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist).
"My approach to the CPI-Maoist and other such banned organisations is that you will suspend violence and we will talk. But they are killing people. Even yesterday they killed two boys in Chhattisgarh who belonged to primitive tribes as they wanted to get recruited in (the Indian) army," he said.
"The coordinated operation (against Maoists) is just a few weeks old...In many places Naxalites are retreating and we welcome it. But in some areas they are engaged in battle," Chidambaram said.
Officials who attended the meeting said participants were of the unanimous view that massive development and speeding up of infrastructure projects should be taken up in the areas being cleared of Maoist control.
When asked to comment on reports saying the Shibu Soren government in Jharkhand, where large areas in the hinterland are in rebel control, has decided to go slow on anti-Maoist drives, he said: "There is a new government in Jharkhand, the chief minister and other senior officials are coming to Delhi Jan 28 to meet me on the Naxal issue."
Chidambaram said the Indian government had no evidence of the Maoists getting external monetary help. "(There is) no evidence of Naxals getting external monetary help though they are getting smuggled arms."
The special meet focussed on devising strategies to fine-tune anti-Maoist operations and take the battle to rebel hideouts in forests. Many of the hideouts have been protected by landmines for almost three decades.
Thousands of paramilitary personnel have launched a crackdown to target some 50 Maoist leaders across the country.
"We would be breaking the neck (of the Maoist movement) by arresting all their senior leaders like Kishenji," a highly placed official in the security establishment told IANS earlier this week.
"We believe there could be around 50 such leaders scattered all over. We are targeting them to make the entire movement headless and make a serious dent," the official said.
Operations are under way in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Maharashtra -- five states where the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) is most active, by influencing and exploiting the poverty and helplessness of tribals.
Another official said that a total of 42 battalions from the Border Security Force (BSF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were involved in the operation.
The BSF, ITBP and CRPF are jointly operating in Chhattisgarh, considered the heartland of the Maoists who believe in a rural insurrection aimed at seizing territory in rural areas and then taking power violently.
According to some estimates, over 60,000 paramilitary forces would be in action against 6,000-7,000 Maoists armed with heavy weapons as well as light machine guns, AK-47s, AK-56s and Insas rifles.