Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Planned offensive against Naxals finally launched

Navin Upadhyay | New Delhi

Forces fan out to Gadchiroli, Kanker, Rajnandgaon

With the Jharkhand Assembly polls over, the first phase of all-out Maoists offensive has started in three districts of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. Sources said paramilitary forces and State police jawans have begun to fan out in the Maoist stronghold of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra and Kanker and Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh.

“The operation has started,” said a top police official.” It will be added more teeth in next 10 days.”

Nearly 80,000 highly-armed jawans drawn from the three paramilitary organisations — the CRPF, BSF and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) posted in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra will take on the Maoists. They are joined by several thousand policemen.

Sources said 21 companies of CRPF have been deployed in Gadchiroli whereas 38 companies of paramilitary forces posted in Kanker and nine in Rajnandgaon. The operation will be unleashed in Jharkhand after the poll results are out and Government is in place, sources said.

A senior official in Delhi said the objective of the first phase of operation was to go for area domination without unleashing any violence. Both the State police and paramilitary forces have been asked to avoid any violent conflict with the Maoists unless such exercise became must for self defence.

“If they retreat, we are not going to hunt and kill them,” said an official. “We want to cleanse the area of red terror and pave the way for development. Out objective is not to go for bloodbath,” he said.

At the same time, senior police officers, who are more familiar with the ground situation and have better intelligence inputs than the paramilitary forces and bureaucrats at the centre feel that the Maoists are not going to retreat peacefully and will attack the forces at the first opportunity.

“They may not get in head-on confrontation with the joint forces because the forces will outnumber them, but they could unleash guerilla strike the moment we lower the guards,” said a police officer.

Gadchiroli, Kanker and Rajnandgaon have emerged as stronghold of the Maoists over the years. On July 12, the Maoists gunned down 26 policemen and Superintendent of Police BK Choubey in a deadly strike. Similarly, on October 8, Maoist guerrillas ambushed a police patrol and gunned down at least 17 policemen in a jungle of Gadchiroli district. Suspected Maoists also slit the throat of a police informer. The Maoists have also been on the rampage in Kanker where they gunned down a score of policemen last year.

A highly placed official associated with the ongoing operation told The Pioneer that during the first phase, the jawans would spread out in deep interiors of all these three districts and set up their outposts there. In the second phase, which would begin in a month’s time depending on the progress of the first phase, the joint forces would make further inroads in far and remote regions of the three districts and go on cleaning the areas of the Maoists.

“Once we clean out the areas, the district administration will step in with developmental apparatus. The Maoists have emerged as the biggest enemy of the development,” he said, adding, “Unless they are neutralsied and driven out, we can’t have any development,” he said.

He pointed out that the Naxalites killed a number of road contractors in Gidchiroli during the few last months. Last month the contractors called for a ‘bandh’ across the Maoist-infested district on November 26 to seek armed protection from the police on work site. This after the Maoists gunned down two contractors.

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