Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Reclaim focus in fight against Maoists

Govt signals subtle shift
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

Chidambaram: Tough line
New Delhi, July 7: Home minister P. Chidambaram today suggested that “clearing out” Maoist-held areas was the government’s first priority in the fight against the insurgency, signalling a tougher stand possibly prompted by the Lalgarh operation.

Development is not possible as long as the Naxalites held sway over these areas, Chidambaram told the Lok Sabha, sparking an outcry from Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The Congress had so far adopted a cautious approach to the Naxalite problem, often referring to “socio-political” factors, but the home minister’s statement suggests that the government is now laying stress on restoration of law and order also.

K.P.S. Gill, the former police officer credited with tackling the Punjab militancy, had written in a series on Lalgarh in The Telegraph that priority should be accorded to restoring law and order before addressing possible solutions.

Chidambaram’s statement in the Lok Sabha came a few days after central security forces helped the Bengal government recapture areas in Lalgarh it had ceded control to the Maoists. The home minister had been insisting throughout the crisis that the Left government, which sat over the problem for over seven months, should take a tougher stand.

Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad protested “the shift” in the government’s stand, perceiving in the minister’s statement a suggestion that the Naxalite problem could be by tackled by the use of force.

Both leaders, who count the weaker sections among their constituency, claimed that killing Naxalites would not solve the problem. “‘We will kill them, crush them.’ This attitude is dangerous. Have you made any attempt to study why Naxalism has spread to such a vast tract of our land? Have you tried to address the problem of poverty and feudal exploitation?”

Mulayam Singh supported the RJD leader and sought to know if the government had drawn up a development plan for the affected areas and whether it was prepared to talk to the Naxalites.

Chidamabaram strongly contested suggestions that he meant a “kill-them-crush-them” solution but articulated the nuanced change in the government’s position.

The minister iterated the position that development was not possible as long as the Naxalites held a certain area and flushing them out was an imperative. The home minister also contested the belief that all Naxalites were ideologically motivated.

“We, as a representative of the state, have to deal with them. We hope our approach is successful,” he asserted.

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