As the naxal attack on Congress’ Parivartan Yatra convoy in Bastar has yet again put Chhattisgarh under scrutiny for failing to contain insurgency, HT's Ejaz Kaiser talks to chief minister Raman Singh.
There are allegations that the state government did not provide adequate security to the Congress’ Parivartan Yatra while your Vikas Yatra was duly secured. Is it correct that Intelligence inputs were also ignored?
Ample force was deployed for Parivartan Yatra and for road opening, both in Sukma and Bastar districts. Of course, there were some security lapses that resulted in the May 25 tragedy. We have instituted a judicial probe. But saying the Congress’s yatra did not have enough security is absolutely wrong.
What about the charge that your government is visible in Bastar only during elections or after a major attack?
It is completely wrong to suggest that the government is missing in action. The Bastar Development Authority has been quite active and the zone has benefited a lot. A single district in 1998, Bastar has been divided into seven districts to bring administration closer to the people. But the region has been facing naxal violence from even before the creation of Chhattisgarh.
Your former security advisor KPS Gill says your government completely ignored his recommendations and advised him to enjoy his stay in Chhattisgarh?
He has the experience of dealing with terrorism in Punjab but there is a huge difference between terrorism and naxalism. Maoists adopt guerrilla warfare strategies. Besides, the topography of Punjab and south Chhattisgarh are different. So his role as security advisor was not very effective. If what he says now is correct, how come his conscience allowed him to enjoy his salary and perks without doing any work?
In the wake of conspiracy theories, what about the demand from relatives of Mahendra Karma and Nand Kumar Patel for a CBI probe?
We too want a thorough inquiry and have set up a judicial commission. The NIA is investigating. We want to get to the truth and punish the guilty.
How do you see this issue panning out in the elections?
Chhattisgarh has been suffering from the naxal problem for a few decades now. I strongly feel this is not the time to think about political gains or losses. Saving our democracy, which naxals oppose, is the need of the hour. All political parties should fight the naxal scourge unitedly.
Maoists now seem to be striking soft targets? How do you plan to counter this challenge?
The state has adopted a ‘zero tolerance policy’ towards naxalism. Whatever the challenge, we will fight and uproot the Maoists from Bastar. We are increasingly posting competent young officers who have brought about positive changes.
Maoists express regret immediately upon killing innocents, but security forces justify the killing of civilians. How can you condone this?
Maoists neither follow the rule of law nor respect human rights. Their regret is nothing but lip service. We are responsive to people’s sentiments and don’t defend unjustified action. People’s trust and support are important to us in the fight against naxals.
What’s on the state government’s agenda now?
Our aim is to defeat the Maoists convincingly and wipe them off Bastar. We’ll focus more on re-working security aspects, besides boosting infrastructure, social indicators and human resource development.