Thursday, May 11, 2006

Gill’s crush-Naxalite plan on Delhi table

MANAN KUMAR

New Delhi, May 10: K.P.S. Gill, credited with crushing militancy in Punjab, wants to crack down on Naxalites in Chhattisgarh before the monsoon sets in.

The former chief of Punjab police, who was recently appointed special adviser to the Chhattisgarh government for a year to weed out Naxalites, submitted a detailed plan to the Union home ministry on May 5.

The plan will be taken up at a meeting headed by Union home secretary V.K. Duggal on Saturday, where he will discuss the operational details with Gill, director-general of military operations Madan Gopal, CRPF chief J.K. Sinha, Chhattisgarh police chief .P. Rathore and other senior officials.

While the home ministry and CRPF are unwilling to speak about the plan, sources said Gill wants to go after Naxalites before the onset of monsoon because lack of undergrowth in the forests at this time would make it easier for security forces to track them down.

Intelligence agencies believe that the Naxalites take cover in the state’s thick forests after carrying out attacks. Of late, such attacks have been on the rise, especially in the Dantewada area in the south, bordering Andhra Pradesh.

Gill’s plan is also believed to feature heavy participation by state police.

However, some voices in the home ministry say such an offensive would not work and that one cannot apply the same methods against Naxalites that Gill had used against militants in Punjab.

“Punjab terrorism and the Naxal problem in Chhattisgarh are absolutely different in nature. Here you are talking about a well-groomed army of almost 10,000 people supported by tribals in several pockets,” said a senior official, adding that if the offensive fails, it could hit police morale and boost rebel confidence.

Gill came to be known as “supercop” after his success in Punjab, but his critics accuse the officer of disregarding the rule of law and human rights.

Home ministry officials denied that the army would join the proposed crackdown but said help, such as the use of helicopters for para-dropping in forest and border areas, might be sought.

The ministry has, in principle, accepted Gill’s demand for more paramilitary forces. He had requested the Centre to sanction 10 paramilitary battalions (approximately 11,000 personnel) over and above the 8 battalions already in the state. A big chunk of the 600-odd CRPF companies (approximately 70,000 men), free from poll duty in Bengal and Assam, will soon be moved to Chhattisgarh.

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