A day after Maoists killed 75 CRPF personnel and a policeman in Chattisgarh's Dantewada district, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday the government had not taken a decision on deploying the armed forces against the ultras yet but the option was open.
"As of now, we have not taken any view in this direction. All these options are kept open and continuously reviewed," Singh said in response to a mediaperson's query on the sidelines of a function in New Delhi.
On his visit to Jagdalpur, where the security forces personnel were massacred by Maoists, Home Minister P Chidambaram said it was too early to review the present policy on the Maoists but did not rule out the military option either.
"There is no proposal to use the army in the operations against Naxalites. But the Centre may revisit the mandate of not using the air force against the Naxals," he said at a press conference.
Asked if the Centre was planning to review its anti-Naxal policy, Chidambaram said, "The policy has to be reviewed practically from time to time, learning from experiences. But we're too close to the event to review the existing policy."
On the question of talks with the Maoists, the home minister said, "To talk of talks now would be a mockery of the supreme sacrifice made by 76 jawans. We must remain calm, we must hold our nerve. If a militant group abjures violence, we will consider talks," he said.
Indian Air Force chief P V Naik, who is also the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, said in Gandhinagar near Ahme-dabad that he did not favour the option of using the armed forces to tackle the Maoist problem.
"The military — air force, army and navy — are trained to inflict maximum lethality. They are not trained for limited lethality. The weapons that we have are meant for the enemy across the border," he said.
Naik observed that the paramilitary forces such as the CRPF are well equipped to tackle the Naxal problem.
"At present, it is better to leave it to the paramilitary forces which are well trained and have intelligence support," he said.
Speaking on the possibility of the IAF being deployed for anti-Maoist operations, Naik said, "Let us say that the air force is called in to attack a Naxal locality and it needs to fire a rocket, which is fired at a minimum distance from 1,500-1,800 metres...from that distance we are not able to visualise what the target is."
Naik however added that it is the "prerogative of the state" to deploy the armed forces when the Naxal problem reaches a level necessitating their involvement.
Naik's views were shared by a senior government official in New Delhi.
"You cannot deploy the army against your own citizens," he said on condition of anonymity.
The government's aim was to regain control of areas dominated by Maoists, not going on a killing spree, he pointed out.