Criticised after his government stopped access to three villages where 300 homes were burnt two weeks ago — by Maoists, says the state; by security forces, say locals — BJP Chief Minister Raman Singh denied the unstated ban. After visiting one of the villages, Tadmetla, where 76 paramilitary soldiers were killed by Maoists a year ago, Singh spoke to the Ejaz Kaiser in Raipur:
Q. Why is it that even two weeks after, a visit to the villages affected by the alleged rampage in Dantewada during mid-March is seen by your government as inviting risk to one’s life?
A. Those areas have been the epicentre of Maoist activities since the last decade and a half and hit hard by Maoist violence. The state’s primary concern always remains to ensure the safety and security of citizens.
Q. Why are journalists being stopped from going there?
A. That is not correct. Some journalists came to Tadmetla by road a couple of days ago when I visited the area to meet the villagers. Everyone is aware of the existing situation there. But whenever various issues or cases concerning the state comes up for hearing in Supreme Court or human rights commission, efforts are evident from some quarters to launch propaganda against the state government with the intention to influence the proceedings.
Q. Do such efforts affect you then?
A. They do not. I have full faith in the independent functioning of the Indian judiciary.
Q. What do outsiders have to fear? Why are you not allowing them to visit?
A. The area happens to be heavily mined. Anyone can go. But security problems are always an issue for outsiders, as Maoist killings are frequent. It is somewhat difficult for the government machinery to go there. It strongly appears that only those who have the Maoists’ consent can visit the area.
Q. Tribals faced brutalities and are now homeless after their houses and other belongings were set ablaze.
A. A judicial probe has been ordered. An impartial investigation will expose those behind the alleged brutalities against the villagers. Anyone found guilty will not be spared.
Q. There was delay in sending emergency relief to the affected villagers.
A. The villagers were agitated and there was some problem initially, but the relief material has reached affected people in all villages.
14 March 2011: 3 Koya commandos killed at Morpalli near Tadmetla
6 April, 2010: 75 CRPF soldiers and a state policeman killed at Tadmetla
10 April, 2009: 11 CRPF killed at Nimka village adjacent to Tadmetla
29 Oct 2007: 12 policemen killed in Tadmetla
Total: 102 security personnel killed