West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Saturday said his government’s strategy to combat Maoist insurgency was bearing fruit, with the administration reclaiming lost ground and clearing the rebels from many urban and semi-urban centres over the past one year.
“We can now dominate major (Maoist) groups in many urban and semi-urban centres, but not inside deep forests. That is difficult,” the chief minister said.
He said operations against the rebels would continue but there was no one-size-fits-all strategy in dealing with Maoists. “They will carry on with what they are doing in Jharkhand. We have our own strategy.”
Bhattacharjee is believed to have told the Centre that his government’s approach was to address the grievances of poor tribals and isolate the Maoists before the taking them on. This is also the CPM’s official line.
Asked if he had ceded ground by swapping Maoist sympathisers with abducted police officer Atindranath Dutta, Bhattacharjee said: “This is an exception and not part of our overall policy in dealing with Maoists.”
He said those released were not combatants but villagers picked up for protesting security operations to flush out rebels in Lalgarh. “They would have been released on bail anyway.”
Bhattacharjee appeared to have pulled off the gamble, with the CPM leadership broadly backing his decision to secure the officer’s release and the Centre not criticising it either.
“The chief minister chose to publicly speak on the issue because the party agreed on the need to rescue the police officer in the light of the circumstances,” a central committee leader said.
Both the party and Bhattacharjee have disowned the remark of Bengal home secretary Ardhendu Sen that compromises were sometimes inevitable while dealing with extremists.
PC denies involvement
Home Minister P. Chidambaram said the Centre was not consulted. “They (Bengal government) did not seek my advice nor was I required to offer them any advice,” he said.