Friday, June 19, 2009

West Bengal should ban CPI-Maoist: Chidambaram

19 Jun 2009, 1608 hrs IST, IANS

NEW DELHI: The West Bengal government should ban the Left extremist outfit, Communist Party of India-Maoist, which has declared the state's Lalgarh
area a "liberated zone" and wreaked havoc there, forcing security forces to launch a major offensive against them, Home Minister P Chidambaram said on Friday.

"No one can understand why the Communist Party of India-Maoist has not been banned (by West Bengal)," the home minister told reporters here after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"We don't want to kill people but we can't have a situation where a militant group takes over an area and declares it a liberated zone," he said while speaking of the joint operations by the West Bengal Police and the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to flush out the Maoists from Lalgarh, 150 km from state capital Kolkata.

The CPI-Maoist is banned in Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, where the Maoists have a presence. The minister also termed as "inappropriate" the use of the word "war" by the media to describe the operation to flush out the ultras.

"Don't call it a war. These are Indians. There is a party called the Communist Party of India-Maoist. They have taken to arms. This is not a way to function in a democracy. "We are dealing with a situation in which a militant organisation is challenging the writ of the civil administration. We are engaged in an operation to re-establish the civil authority. The use of the word war is totally inappropriate," Chidambaram maintained.

Conceding that the people of the area in West Midnapore had grievances, the home minister said: "That is something to be addressed by the government of West Bengal. "If anyone wishes to talk to the state government, they should come forward and do so. We will be very happy to facilitate such talks," Chidambaram said.

He also noted that West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had been speaking to him everyday and was expected to call on the prime minister Saturday.

Security forces have launched a three-pronged offensive to flush out the Maoists from Lalgarh. The Maoists and their tribal supporters dug up roads, cut trees to block roads and put up a "human shield" to prevent the security forces from advancing.

The heavily armed central and state forces resumed their operation Friday morning after a night halt near Koima, nearly 10 km from Lalgarh. The home minister, however, did not lay down a time line for the operations. "The operation will take time In fact, it will take considerably more time than had been expected," he pointed out.

"The forces are moving towards Lalgarh. They are moving cautiously. We are also appealing to the people, particularly the tribals, through loudspeakers and handbills that the forces are not against the people," Chidambaram added.

"The progress is slow but I can't say when the forces will reach Lalgarh. The operation so far is going according to plan," he maintained. "We have to be prepared for the unexpected but I am confident that the operation will be successful.

Lalgarh has been on the boil since last November when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada. Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, the angry tribals launched an agitation virtually cutting off the area from the rest of the district.

During the last few days, the agitators have torched CPI-M offices, driven away the party's supporters and forced police to wind up several camps, thereby establishing a virtual free zone.

Maoists have been active in the three western districts of the state, West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. They also backed the Trinamool-sponsored movement against the state government's bid to establish a chemical hub at Nandigram in East Midnapore district

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