Friday, 17 June 2005

Maoist violence: Centre chalks out strategy

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 17: Chief Ministers of all the 13 Naxal-infested States in the country will form themselves into a standing committee to devise strategies from time to time to fight Maoist and other Left wing extremist violence.
Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil will be the chairperson of the standing committee of chief ministers. Joint task force operations will be conducted by affected States to prevent movement of Naxalites from one State to another. This in effect means police of one Naxal infested State can enter the territory of another Naxal-infested State without prior permission of the State concerned.
Chief Secretaries and directors-general of police of Naxal-hit States met in the city on Friday under the chairmanship of Union Home Secretary VK Duggal to discuss the problem of and find solution to Naxalism. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy participated in the inaugural function.
The meeting categorised Naxal-infested States into two categories based on the scale of violence by Maoists and other Naxal bodies. The States where the Naxal movement is active and violence quite frequent are Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Maharashtra. States like West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttaranchal, Kerala, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have been classified as "States with sporadic violence".
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Duggal said none of the States suggested a nation-wide ban on Naxalites as they saw Naxalism more of a socio-economic problem rather than a police or unidemensional or internal security issue. The meeting discussed the socio-economic steps taken up by various States and the Centre's intervention in development of backward areas, land reforms, forest rights, employment and education. "We would like to treat Naxals as a misguided lot", he said.
Duggal said Naxal violence had come down considerably in the country in the past one year. There were only 768 Naxal violent incident during 2004-2005 as against 884 incidents during 2003-2004.
The meeting decided to go in for joint operations, sharing of intelligence and joint task forces in active naxal belts. Mine protective and bullet proof vehicles will be procured for combing operations.
To a question, he said local people might be involved in fighting against Naxalites. The State government will take up development of neglected areas and take up economic programmes involving the local population to wean them away from the movement.
He said a common model could not be evolved for the entire country as the problem differs from State to State. It has to be tackled at the State level.
Duggal pointed out that State governments might utilise the services of jungle warfare from the Army to train their police force. At present 24 battalions of central forces consisting of 24,000 police personnel are on anti-Naxal duty in the country. Andhra Pradesh will get one more battalion. It has at present four battalions fighting against Naxalites in the State.

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