Saturday, May 30, 2009

'Anti-Naxal ops fine, but tread with care'

31 May 2009, 0510 hrs IST, Ramu Bhagwat, TNN

NAGPUR: With over 35 police personnel killed in last three months in Gadchiroli district, the state government has once again talked tough about
need for an all-out offensive against the Naxalites. The Union home ministry’s 100-day action plan proposed to be implemented from June is also expected to basically focus on Naxalism in different parts of the states.
But a cross-section of social activists have expressed apprehension that unless sensitively planned and executed, any operation against the Leftist rebels may find common people and social activists working for marginalised sections of the society in the crossfire.

In the worst-affected Gadchiroli itself a perception has gained ground over the years that for the hapless villagers are caught between devil and the deep sea situation. While Naxalites are known to mercilessly kill people over suspicion of being police informers, the infamous Chinna Matami case has highlighted that the police can also err while identifying Naxalites and their supporters. The court ordered the state to pay Rs 2 lakh compensation nailing the police’s ‘fake’ encounter.

Nearer home, the Khairlanji public agitation over killing of four members of a Dalit family, saw the police dubbing some social activists as Naxalites and implying that the Maoists were behind inciting the agitation. Dr Milind Mane, a known Dalit activist, who besides his interest in politics is a practising physician, was among many activists who bore the police ire as they were suspected of being hand-in-glove with the Maoists.

“The Naxalites believe they are fighting for the right cause. Their methods and acts of violence may be questioned and dealt with suitably but the root cause that force them to take the gun can not be swept under the carpet,” said a political activist who did not want to be named. The activist warned that any knee-jerk action in the name of anti-Naxal operation could have far-reaching social consequences.
Reports suggest that Union home ministry’s 100-day action plan will incorporate all points promised by the Congress to counter terror in its first-ever document on terrorism prior to the elections.

Activists like Dr Mane feel what is urgently needed to tackle the terrorist and Naxalites is better arms and facilities for the police force deployed in the sensitive areas. “There is need to wean away people gradually from the Naxalites. Moreover, identifying Naxal supporters is also no mean task and utmost care needs to be taken lest innocent people could become victims,” the activist added.

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