Thursday, June 18, 2009

Army to set up new unit in Naxal belt

Bengal Violence

War of words between PC and Left
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 17
In what is an important change in the country’s anti-Naxal policy, the Indian Army will provide logistical support in tackling the menace of Naxalism, which was annually claiming more lives than insurgency in the North-East or J&K. The latest is the fresh bout of violence that has rocked Lalgarh in West Bengal where the writ of the state has ceased to run.

First, the Army has been asked to make an on-the-spot assessment of the affected areas in the Naxal belt to suggest measures like inducting men and the tactics that need to be deployed. The assessment will be carried out in Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Secondly, the Army will set up its “sub-area” unit at Raipur in Chhattisgarh. This will be for a logistical purpose for stationing men and equipment that can be used at short notice.

The anti-Naxal “war” will continue to be fought by the para-military forces. However, the Army will provide its acumen, a top source confirmed, while clarifying that the area was not being “handed over” to the Army.

Sources in the government said this would be in addition to the existing duties of the Army under which it provided specialised training to the paramilitary forces. A senior retired officer has been given the task to lead a team. So far some 18,000 of the paramilitary men have been trained in neutralising Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), in handling casualties in an encounter besides training in Armoury. The Army teams are also training a specialised group within the paramilitary forces

Such is the Naxal violence that in the past five years, 4,405 persons — civilians, security men and terrorists —have been killed in the belt. In comparison 4,324 and 4,136 is the figure for the North-East and J&K, respectively. In these figures, the number of civilians and security men killed in the Naxal belt are also the highest when compared with NE or J&K.

Meanwhile, today a war of words ensued between the Congress-led UPA regime at the Centre and the Left parties that rule in the eastern state. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram lashed out at the Left Front government in the state for not acting in a timely manner, saying, “We are getting an impression that a section of the government wants to act while the rest doesn’t, fearing the consequences.”

The law and order situation in West Bengal is deteriorating fast because of the Maoist violence. He said the Central Government had despatched enough central forces. He said the state police should also commit its police force. “I do not know how many men have been sent, what is their mandate and what are the instructions for them,” he said. The West Bengal CM has been asked to give clear instructions to the state police.

Member of the CPM Politburo Brinda Karat claimed violence had been stepped up against the CPM cadres with ruthlessness as the perpetrators have the confidence that they will be protected by the representatives of WB in the central government (the obvious reference is to the Trinamool Congress and the Congress). The Maoists are said to be coming in from Jharkhand where the President’s rule is in force. The state government has sought cooperation from the Centre, Karat added.

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