Saturday, June 05, 2010

Army meet on Maoist Fight

New Delhi, June 4: Army sources today said some units in Jammu and Kashmir had been told to be “on standby” and be ready to leave for Maoist-hit central India at short notice if such an order came.

The sources, however, clarified that the Centre’s current policy of not deploying the army in the battle against the Maoists still stood, and that any new strategy had to be cleared by the cabinet committee on security.

“As of now there is no decision to deploy the army. Even the defence minister has said that unless the cabinet committee on security approves (such a move), nothing can be said,” an army source said.

A cabinet meeting, scheduled yesterday, was cancelled without any reason being cited. Nor was the cabinet committee on security meeting held.

Army sources said a series of meetings was held at the Eastern Command headquarters today to discuss the anti-Maoist strategy. Government sources added that a Rashtriya Rifles battalion could be the one to be moved from Jammu and Kashmir to central India.

It’s not clear what the army’s role will be if it is deployed in the Maoist zone.

The Centre’s strategy is to secure major routes in Chhattisgarh and, if the cabinet committee on security allows it, even the army’s special forces could be sent to de-mine and secure roads and vital infrastructure, the government sources said.

Any move to send the army after the Maoists will attract protests from civil society organisations and even from sections within the government. Even today, many MPs who called on Union home minister P. Chidambaram advised against army deployment against the rebels.

There are 48 CRPF battalions in nine Maoist-affected states, of which 14 are in Chhattisgarh alone. However, the recent setbacks suffered by the paramilitary forces have prompted the government to rethink its strategy.

Jharkhand is under President’s rule and, as its governor said on Thursday, the government has decided to continue with the anti-Maoist operations there.

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