The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar, under flak for its reluctance to arrest or question Indian Mujahideen lynchpin Yasin Bhatkal, has now drawn the Centre’s ire for taking a hands-off approach towards fighting Maoist rebels in the state.
The ministry of home affairs (MHA) has communicated its concern to the Bihar government that while Maoists are launching spectacular strikes and killing security forces, the forces have not killed a single Maoist recently. It has cautioned against a slackening of anti-Maoist operations and asked the state to act before things get worse.
The feeling is growing that ahead of the 2014 elections, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is not willing to take even the slightest risk, and will avoid targeting the Maoists for fear of reprisals. His caginess over Bhatkal, who recruited over 100 youth from Darbangha and Madhubani in the state, is thought to have been driven by fear of losing Muslim votes.
“The policy of appeasement has crept into Bihar’s security response and with drastic consequences.’’ a senior government official told HT. MHA has made a point of telling Bihar that the Maoists will not stop short of targeting and killing political bigwigs, like they did in Chhattisgarh, where the top leadership of the Congress was wiped out at one go.
Bihar Home Secretary Amir Subhani denied the charges. “We have been prompt in carrying anti-Naxalite operations and taking a slew of measures to tackle the reds,” he told HT. He stressed that apart from policing and counter Naxal or Maoist operations, the government has been carrying out development schemes like ‘Sarkar aapke dwar’ and providing land to the landless.
In the last few months alone, the Maoists have killed 13 security personnel and snatched over 30 automatic rifles including INSAS and AK 47s.
In an audacious attack on a Security Auxilliary Force camp in Aurangabad in July, they decamped with one of the largest arms hauls.
The same month, they attacked a Patna-Dhanbad intercity express, killing three people.
Thirteen security personnel have been killed in 2013 as against one in 2012. Naxals snatched 33 weapons in the first eight months of the year as against two the previous year; 37 Naxals surrendered in 2012 and only two have come forward this year.
Alarmed by the deteriorating situation, senior officials in the MHA wanted the Union Home Minister SK Shinde to write to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, but sources reveal that Shinde preferred to have the message conveyed through bureaucratic channels.
(with inputs from Avinash Kumar, Patna)