Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Hint of long Naxalite fight


New Delhi, Feb. 1: P. Chidambaram today said he expected the rising civilian, militant and security personnel casualties in Naxalite-affected areas to continue in 2010, the remarks being seen as an indication of the Centre’s resolve to unleash a protracted operation.

The Union home minister cited data to argue how “the situation in the states affected by Left-wing extremism continues to be a cause of grave concern”. The Maoist-affected zones, he pointed out, had reported more casualties (1,125) last year than even the militancy-hit Northeast (877) and Jammu and Kashmir (381). “I expect this trend (of rising casualties) to continue in 2010 but I am also confident that state governments would be able to gradually reclaim control over areas now dominated by the Naxalites,” he said.

Explaining the rising deaths, the minister said it was also a reflection of the fact that the drive against the rebels had been intensified. “The increase in the number of incidents and casualties is not surprising because (the) state governments decided to deploy a larger number of security forces and engage the Naxalites in the districts dominated by them to re-establish the authority of the civilian government.”

Chidambaram made it clear, however, that the Centre was only providing additional forces to the states, reiterating a position he had taken earlier to distance his ministry from Operation Green Hunt after criticism from civil society groups and a section of the ruling Congress about possible civilian casualties.

“It is only on the inter-state border, because it involves two or more states, that a central task force headed by a senior central government official will take command. Only at the tri-junction or junction of two states. Otherwise, all operations are under the command and control of the state governments,” Chidambaram said.

On February 9, the home minister will hold a meeting in Calcutta with the chief ministers of rebel-hit Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar. Chidambaram had held a similar meeting with the chief ministers of Chhattisgarh, Orissa and the home minister of Maharashtra in Raipur on January 22, followed by talks with Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren in Delhi on January 28. Chidambaram had described these meetings as sessions to review intra-state and inter-state operations against the rebels.

The minister sought to allay apprehensions that the offensive meant a battle against the country’s own citizens but asserted that the authority of the civilian administration needed to be established in the rebel-infested areas. “There is no battle involved. Paramilitary forces are not engaged with anyone in any battle.”

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