Friday, June 12, 2009

Centre readies plan to flush out Maoists after monsoon

11 Jun 2009, 0455 hrs IST, Bharti Jain, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: Keen to arrest the escalation in Left-wing extremist violence that has killed over 170 security personnel this year alone, the Centre is
giving final touches to its action-plan for a major post-monsoon offensive against the Maoists in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

The three states, apart from Maharashtra and Bihar, have been witness to a string of deadly attacks triggered by Maoists over the last couple of months, the latest being on Wednesday when the Naxalites triggered a landmine blast in West Singbhum, Jharkhand, killing 11 CRPF and state police personnel. In a separate incident, an assistant commandant of the CRPF was killed and five others injured by Maoists in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh.

The strategy for the proposed counter-strike, which will be jointly carried out by Central para-military forces such as CRPF and police force of the three states, has been prepared by the senior MHA officials and is currently being fine-tuned by Union home minister P Chidambaram. The final go-ahead for launch of the intelligence-based special operation, in which the special anti-Naxal Cobra battalions will play a key role, is likely to be given by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

The post-monsoon offensive is expected to be a time-bound counter-operation that will essentially focus on the extremist-infested Orissa-Chhattisgarh-Jharkhand tri-junction. While the police of each of the three states will undertake operations within their respective territories, the CRPF is likely to take the lead in contiguous districts of the three states. The command structure is being worked out and will be defined in the action plan.

The Central forces, as part of the offensive, will move in jungles dotting the inter-state borders and based on advance intelligence, bust Naxalites’ hideouts and block their escape routes through inter-state borders. The state police will meanwhile hit at the Naxalites’ bases in the deep jungles and have already sought Central force reinforcements for the purpose.

Maoists have unleashed a string of violent attacks over the last two months, targeting mainly police and Central para-military personnel. The attacks peaked just ahead of the Lok Sabha poll, as the extremists unleashed Red terror to stall the democratic exercise in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar. The fact that the Central forces were stretched thin in the Naxal-hit states on account of their diversion to election duties only helped the extremists gain an upper hand.

“The Naxalites have been taking undue advantage of the security vaccum created due to preoccupation of the para-military forces with guarding the
poll process,” admitted a senior MHA official. The Centre, the official added, is waiting for the monsoon to clear up before striking back against the Maoists.

Even as the action-plan for the anti-Maoist offensive is given final touches, the MHA is already working on a major push to the infrastructure as well as arsenal of the counter-Naxal forces. Mr Chidambaram, who is taking special interest in enhancing the capability of the counter-Naxal forces, is convinced about the need for a major hike in allocation for the purpose.

Among the additional equipment being considered for induction into the anti-extremist grid are helicopters — the CRPF may finally get its much-delayed air-wing — armoured personnel carriers and even drones to spy on the Naxalites’ bases as well as movements.

According to statistics compiled by the South Asian Terrorism Portal, as many as 381 persons, including 149 security personnel, have been killed in Left-wing extremist violence between January 1, 2009, and May 26, 2009. Another estimated 25 people, including 22 security personnel, are believed to have been killed by the Naxalites in incidents thereafter.

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