Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chidambaram: Why aren't Maoists banned in Bengal?

20 Jun 2009, 0837 hrs IST, TNN



NEW DELHI: Free of Left shackles, the Centre on Friday finally told West Bengal what security and intelligence agencies had been urging it to do for
a long time -- ban Maoists in the state.

Questioning the wisdom of Left-ruled West Bengal for not banning CPI (Maoists) in the state, home minister P Chidambaram said, "I believe there are voices in West Bengal which have raised this issue. We think they should be banned in West Bengal as in other states."

This was the first time in five years that a home minister openly stated the need to ban Maoists in West Bengal when the outfit is banned by the central government and all naxal-affected states.

Security and intelligence agencies have been raising the issue for long, arguing that West Bengal has become a shelter for Red ultras who take refuge there after committing violence in neighbouring Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa and also in faraway states like Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.

Besides asking the state to ban naxals, the Centre unequivocally extended its support to West Bengal for its suggestion for talks with Maoists -- provided the ultras laid down their arms.

After a Cabinet meeting which also took note of violence in Lalgarh and adjoining areas, Chidambaram said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had conveyed to him his readiness to speak with Maoists or tribal leaders.

"The CM told me that he had made an appeal to Maoist and tribal leaders that the state government was willing to talk. I endorse that appeal. If they wish to talk, they should come forward to do so. We will be happy to facilitate the talks," he said.

"We are dealing with a situation where there is a militant organisation and we want them to lay down arms and come to talks if they have any grievances," he added.

Referring to the operation against naxals in Lalgarh, the home minister said police and paramilitary personnel would take more time and the forces should expect the "unexpected".

"Progress will be slow. They (forces) are making progress... So far, the operation is going according to plan but they must be prepared for the unexpected. I sincerely hope that with the kind of action we have advised, the operation will be successful. An operation of this kind will take some time. In fact, it will take considerably more time than was anticipated," he said.

He added that forces were "moving and moving cautiously" and the operation was not against tribals but only against naxalites.

Asked whether security forces could expand their operations to adjoining districts of Bankura and Purulia, he said since both districts were near Lalgarh, the ongoing operations "could take them to Bankura and Purulia too".

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