Friday, May 22, 2009

Special force will be set up for Naxal-affected areas: Patil

23 May 2009, 0452 hrs IST, Ramu Bhagwat & Mazhar Ali, TNN

NAGPUR/GADCHIROLI: Alarmed by three major attacks on the police in this Maoist-sensitive district in last four months, the Maharashtra government
has decided to set up a dedicated force of two to three battalions to tackle the Naxal violence and seek eight to 10 battalions of central paramilitary force to be stationed in eastern Vidarbha, state home minister Jayant Patil announced here on Friday.

After paying homage to Thursday’s 16 martyrs of Hatti Gota encounter, Patil struck an aggressive note. “Time for the ultimate battle with insurgents has come. From now on home department will take strong stand to wipe out the Naxal movement from this backward district and the state,” said Patil.

Returning to Nagpur after the state condolence ceremony for the martyrs, Patil told mediapersons that he will convene a meeting in Mumbai in first week of June to chalk out a joint strategy with home ministers of neighbouring Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Orissa. “We are already working in co-ordination with the Centre. But the Mumbai meeting will be to plan a fresh strategy for a joint action to give a fitting reply to the perpetrators of mindless violence,” said Patil.

When pointed out that the Maoists had called for a two-day bandh to demand status of ‘political prisoners’ to incarcerated Naxalites, Patil said if was for the Union government to take a decision on that, but as far the state was concerned it was against showing any leniency to those involved in gory killings of civilians and police personnel.
Earlier, talking to newspersons at Gadchiroli, Patil detailed the several initiatives taken by home department to tackle the rising Naxal activities. “The union government had approved the demand of providing helicopter for anti-Naxal operations (ANO) prior to Lok Sabha election. Earlier, it was suggested to keep the chopper at Nagpur, but we are discussing about keeping it permanently at Gadchiroli,” he said stating that long-pending demand of having permanent helicopter for ANO has been fulfilled.

Moreover, home department has decided to bring about major revamp in the ANO set-up, which includes shifting of ANO headquarters to Gadchiroli, he informed. “After reviewing the outcome of ANO’s work, we have concluded that the ground operations against the Naxalites need close watch and hence have decided to shift the ANO headquarters from Nagpur to Gadchiroli. After Hatti Gota carnage this issue needs to be addressed immediately,” said the home minister.
He further said that after the February 1 Markegaon carnage in which 15 cops were killed, the state government had taken few concrete steps to deal with Naxal movement. “We have placed orders for modern arms and ammunition along with other equipment to fight the outlaws. The amount for the same has been paid and delivery has started since last month. All these material will be readily available to the forces by next month,” he said.

Expressing immediate need of additional special forces from central government to deal with the Naxal activities in Gadchiroli, he said; “Chhattisgarh has 16 battalions of central forces posted in its territory, AP too has few such battalions, but Maharashtra have none. I am going to raise the demand with union home minister to deploy at least eight to 10 central paramilitary battalions permanently in state. Besides this, we (state government) will also raise two to three new battalions to deal with the Naxalites.”

Apart from this the government will ensure that all the officers being posted in Gadchiroli get transferred after two years. He also held that special action group - the specialist force developed to deal with Naxalites - will be further trained on grounds of elite Grey Hound force of Andhra Pradesh.

However, the minister rejected the theory of military solution to Naxal problem. “Military action at this stage is not acceptable. It will be the last resort,” he said.

Patil accompanied by other dignitaries paid homage to the martyrs at police ground at Gadchiroli.

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