Is there a need for a fresh mandate to curb the Maoists? (Article)

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New Delhi, May 21 (ANI): The brutal killing of 31 persons in Chhattisgarh soon after the Dantewada attack on the Central Reserve Police Force, which had claimed the lives of 76, indicates that while the Maoists are clear in their strategy, the Indian State - both at the Central and State levels - appears confused.

The attack on the civilian bus showed the ruthlessness of the Maoists, who have claimed that their targets were the 15 Special Police officers traveling in it.

The attack on the civilian bus, which was on a routine journey from Dantewada to Sukhma, has shown the Central and State Governments in poor light. Stung by the criticism, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said that he had a 'limited mandate': the maintenance of law and order was the responsibility of the State, and the Government of India can only provide special forces when asked for and provide intelligence inputs and funds for development.

The remarks made earlier during the week by Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh on the 'aggressive 'statements of Chidambaram following the Dantewada massacre, have added fuel to the controversy.

The controversy has not died down in spite of the statement made by the Congress President Sonia Gandhi in her article in the Congress Party journal Sandesh that while the country 'must address acts of terror decisively and forcefully', it has to 'address the root cause of Naxalism'.

The rise of Naxalism, she said, is a reflection of the need for our development initiatives to reach to the grass roots, especially in our most backward of tribal districts.

On this occasion, one recalls that the late Rajiv Gandhi had mentioned that hardly fifteen percent of the funds allotted for development reaches the people. Even today, in the areas affected by Naxalism, the funds earmarked for development are not spent.

Soon after the Dantewada incident, the Home Ministry arranged for a briefing by the Planning Commission for elected members of Naxal-affected areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, to provide them details of the programmes being implemented by the Government.

It was felt that elected members would take pains to monitor the implementation of flagship programmes of the Government of India and try to wean tribals away from Naxalism.

Ever since Chidambaram took over as the Home Minister at the end of 2008, he has assumed a proactive role in mobilizing different State Governments to take steps to curb Naxalism, which has been described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the most serious challenge that the country is facing.

Chidambaram has also invited the Naxals for talks - the only condition being that they should abjure violence for 72 hours before the commencement of dialogue. The Naxals have rejected the offer.

They know that talks and acceleration of development would mean that their hold on the tribals in the interior belt of the five states would be affected. The construction of a road network would open the hinterland and expose them to the security forces. As of now, the Naxals have been comfortable dealing with the local police, forest guards and contractors engaged in construction of roads and school buildings.

The month of April, when the tendu leave trade commences, is a sensitive time in the area. The Naxals were determined that the Central Reserve Police Force should not make inroads into territory which has been under their control for years. They issued warnings, declared 'bandhs', and even slit the throats of villagers who defied their threats.

The 'leadership' of the Naxals does not belong to a particular region. From Koteshwar Rao to Ramana, most of them are 'migrants' from Andhra Pradesh , which was their original home for decades, before the so-called Operation 'Green-Hunt' displaced them. They are now established in safe havens in Bastar, Koraput, Midnapur, to name a few areas.

It is time that the Central Government told the Naxals in no uncertain terms that there would be no compromise with elements who challenge the unity and integrity of the country. It could use the armed forces, if necessary. Rightly, the Government has decided that so far there is no need to use the military, except Air Force helicopters for logistic purposes.

The Government of India has a clear mandate to ensure the unity and integrity of the country. It is not a 'limited mandate'. It is time "Operation Green Hunt' is pursued like a real 'Hunt'. E-mail ID: raoramamohan@hotmail.com By I. Ramamohan Rao (ANI)

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