'A strong head, a stronger heart and staying power needed to tackle Naxals': Chidambaram

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New Delhi, Feb.19 (ANI): Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Friday said the Naxal and terrorism menace afflicting the country was far worse than expected, but added that the government is more than determined to root out the threat through various counter-measures.

Interacting with women journalists on a host of domestic and security-related issues, Chidambaram said: "The Naxal menace was far worse than we (the government) expected. As long as we did not engage with them, they were happy. For doing all this (anti-Naxal operations, other counter-insurgency measures), one needs a strong head, a stronger heart and staying power."

He also said it was important to understand that apart from proper administration and security, attention needed to be paid to "regional aspirations, language and caste-related issues, because these are important."

"It is a difficult period on many issues. We have been in a state of denial. This makes my task (as Home Minister) all the more difficult, but there is a general silver lining," said Chidambaram during his interaction with the Women's Press Corps in the capital.

When asked specifically how the Naxals were still being able to sustain themselves in spite of the central and state governments coordinated approach towards tackling them head-on, Chidambaram said: "The Naxals (or Maoists) are getting their intellectual and material support from unsuspecting NGOs (non-government organizations) and civil society, and this makes state jurisdiction very difficult."

When asked to respond to the oft-repeated Naxal view that the government was not doing enough on the development front, especially in areas where people were backward, socially underprivileged and poor, the Union Home Minister said: ""How can there be development without effective civil administration and policing."

"Policing, civic administration and development have to take place side by side. Without civilian administration in place, how can there be development. We must first have in place civil administration, proper policing and security, only then can we think of development, schools and hospitals etc.," he added.

"Which doctor will want to go back to an area, or such areas where there is a threat to life, family," he said.

Responding to another question on security forces and paramilitary forces attracting criticism for allegedly evacuating and occupying schools and other buildings in Maoist-infested areas forcibly, Chidambaram rejected it outright.

"There is always criticism of the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force). The fact is that no schools or buildings are being forcibly evacuated. The schools that they are occupying are not in use. The Maoists are not speaking the truth when they spread this sort of news. The Maoists are the ones who are blowing up schools. They have blown up 350 schools," he said.

The Union Home Minister also rejected suggestions of security forces undertaking a carnage of Maoists.

He said: "There is no carnage, no carpet bombing (of Maoist-affected areas). The security forces have been told to retaliate only if attacked. They have been told give a controlled and calibrated response."

"Now, in three out of six states, we are in confrontation (with Naxals/Maoists). Unless we challenge and confront them, there will be more incidents such as what took place in Sealdah (24 policemen killed) in West Bengal and in Bihar (12 villagers killed in Phulwariya). They will try every trick in their bag - civil society support, seduce the media, unleash false charges in court. They will try to pull all strings and widen the circle of their influence. In all this cacophony, the (Maoist) aim is to overthrow the parliamentary system of government," Chidambaram said.

"There is no half-measure house in dealing with Naxalism, terrorism," the Home Minister said.

Asked if the government was at war with the Naxals, Chidambaram said: "We are not at war with them. They are our countrymen. Even if I get 72 hours of peace, I can talk to them, but they don't want it."

He also said that the case of the kidnapped block development officer, Prashant Kumar Layek, is an issue that has to be decided by the Jharkhand Government. (ANI)

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