P Chidambaram / July 18, 2010, 0:01 IST
You are aware that CPI (Maoist) is the principal Left-wing extremist organisation. As long as CPI (Maoist) was not challenged effectively, it expanded its area of activity, recruited more cadres, kidnapped more persons, extorted more money, acquired or looted more weapons, asserted its dominance in more areas, and targeted the security forces as well as civilians.
Between 2004 and 2008, on an average, 500 civilians were killed every year — many of them after being named ‘police informers’. We are especially concerned that ordinary citizens should be labelled as ‘police informers’ and killed by CPI (Maoist). CPI (Maoist) has no right to set itself up as judge, jury and executioner. In fact, it has no right to carry arms. It is a banned organisation and functions outside the pale of the law.
The efforts of the state governments, assisted by central paramilitary forces, have met with mixed results. Key leaders of CPI (Maoist) have been apprehended. Many attacks were repulsed. Security forces have asserted their control over some areas in the districts of Gadchiroli and Kanker. However, there have been setbacks too.
The most serious setbacks were in Silda (West Bengal) and in Tarmetla, Chingawaram and Dhaudhai (all in Chhattisgarh). Besides, there was the derailment of the Gnaneswari Express that claimed the lives of 149 innocent civilians. There have been some lapses on the part of the security forces in failing to follow standard operating procedure. There can be no gain in saying that the attacks by the CPI (Maoist) were pre-meditated and carried out with the object of inflicting maximum damage on the security forces and overawing the people and the elected governments.
We would do well to remember that the attacks by CPI (Maoist), whether opportunistic or pre-planned, are part of their strategy of an ‘armed liberation struggle’ and in furtherance of their goal of ‘seizure of political power through a protracted people’s war’.
The Central government acknowledges its role and responsibility to assist the state governments in every way — deploying central paramilitary forces, sharing intelligence, funding the modernisation of police forces and providing logistics and other support. In the light of the experience gained in the last six months, we have reviewed the level of support that we can provide to the state governments and we have taken some decisions.
These include providing more helicopters for logistics support, troop movement, supplies and evacuation; to fund the establishment/strengthening of 400 police stations in the affected districts at the rate of Rs 2 crore per police station on 80:20 basis over a period of two years; to sanction additional SPOs to the states; to request the state governments of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal to create a Unified Command for anti-naxal operations; and to appoint a retired Major General of the army as a member of the Unified Command.
In addition, it has been decided to set up an empowered group chaired by Member-Secretary, Planning Commission, to modify existing norms/guidelines in the implementation of various development schemes in the affected districts and to improve road connectivity in 34 districts most affected by Left-wing extremism. A number of roads and bridges are proposed to be included, at a cost of Rs 950 crore, by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways under RRP-I.
In the course of your interventions, I would request each one of you – the Governor and the Chief Ministers – to give your views on the measures that I have outlined above. I would also request you to tell us what more measures are required to be taken to curb the menace of Left-wing extremism. I hope that each one of you will bring to the table the things that we are doing right and the things that we are doing wrong, and that we can have a free and frank discussion on this very serious subject.
(Excerpts from Home Minister P Chidambaram’s address to the meeting of Chief Ministers of states affected by Left-wing extremism in New Delhi on July 14)