Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s meeting in Kolkata to roll out operation Green Hunt in eastern India ended with little promise as the chief ministers of Jharkhand and Bihar opted out, citing ill health and prior appointments.
West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Jharkhand Deputy Chief Ministers Raghubar Das and Sudesh Mahto, and the chief secretary and DGP of Bihar attended the meeting.
The post-meeting media briefing lasted barely12-13 minutes and Chidambaram was silent on any time frame for the rollout of Operation Green Hunt, the concerted action to re-establish the writ of the state in Naxal-dominated areas in the four eastern states.
“These operations are not a scoreboard of a cricket match. They will be slow but steady,” said the home minister, adding that the steps will be “measured, calibrated and careful controlled to eliminate collateral damage. The objective is not to kill anybody. They are our own people. We care for them”.
“Halt the violence and we can talk to the Maoists,” the home minister said.
But Jharkhand CM Shibu Soren’s absence only reinforced the impression that he was soft on the Naxalites.
“I am told that Soren is being hospitalised. I had a two-hour meeting with him 10 days ago. He is fully on board,” Chidambaram said. Soren was admitted to Ranchi’s Apollo Hospital on Tuesday morning after he complained of chest pain.
Jharkhand shares a 476 km long border with West Bengal. So, any coordinated anti-Maoist offensive needs Jharkhand’s participation. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee wants a coordinated offensive across the four states, without which, he says, the ultras can’t be effectively contained as they can use the porous border and forest cover to elude the security forces.
But Soren’s deputy sounded a discordant note.
“What is the need for the police operation? We are already working on a sure-shot strategy to root them (Naxals) out from the interiors by eliminating the causes of their growth,” said Das.
In Patna, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said he had informed Chidambaram of his inability to attend the meeting owing to prior appointments.
With inputs from our Patna and Ranchi bureaus