Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sleeping govts let Naxals grow: PC

16 Jul 2009, 0202 hrs IST, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: Admitting that the gravity of the Naxal threat had been underestimated all these years, resulting in the Left-wing extremists' extending
their influence, Union home minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday informed the Rajya Sabha that an action plan was being prepared to counter the Maoists challenge.

A military advisor has been appointed to offer inputs on strategies to take on the CPI(Maoist), given the growing militarisation of the outfit. "Regrettably for many years we did not properly assess the threat posed by Left-wing extremism. We under-estimated the challenge and in the meanwhile they (Naxalites) extended their influence," he said while replying to questions in the Rajya Sabha.

Accepting that the Naxalites posed a grave challenge, Mr Chidambaram said a detailed action plan to counter them was under preparation. "Plans are being drawn up in close consultation with state governments... we have also appointed a military advisor (for inputs on dealing with Left-wing extremism)," he said.

Though Mr Chidambaram refused to share details of the plans, the Centre, according to sources, is planning a major joint offensive with the Orissa and Chhattisgarh governments, wherein it will bust the Naxalite hideouts dotting the tri-junctions of Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand with full military might.

The operation, to be undertaken in the post-monsoon period, is likely to be led by the CRPF's special Cobra battalions and could involve the use of IAF helicopter gunships for precision aerial strikes on "mapped" Naxal camps.

As many as 1,128 Naxalite attacks have taken place until June 30 this year, causing 455 casualties in all. In what was the worst strike of the year so far, Naxalites last week killed 36 Chhattisgarh police personnel in multiple ambushes in Rajnandgaon.

Mr Chidambaram said he was in close touch with the chief ministers of the Naxal-affected states and would hold a meeting with them in August to discuss ways to counter Left-wing extremism. "State-level plans are being drawn so that they can be integrated with the Centre's plan," he said.

Incidentally, Mr Chidambaram digressed from the Centre’s stand so far backing Salwa Judum as a "voluntary people's movement." When CPI's D Raja asked about the movement in Chhattisgarh, Mr Chidambaram said the Centre was not in favour of non-state players.

"We are not in favour of non-state players taking on extremists. That could be a political party... that could be Salwa Judum or any other organisation. We are for the states dealing with Left-wing extremists," he said.

To this, BJP's M Venkaiah Naidu remarked that the Salwa Judum movement was headed by the leader of the Opposition in the Chhattisgarh assembly, Mahendra Karma of the Congress. "I salute him (for leading the movement)," he said. An unruffled Chidambaram replied that he was in close contact with the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister and he has “more or less accepted my line (on Salwa Judum)."

The home minister said the reason behind movements like Left-wing extremism was alienation of sections of people whose development needs have not been addressed.

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