SPOs killing by naxals causing concern to MHA
New Delhi, Mar 15: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is worried over the killing of a large number of Special Police Officers (SPOs), recruited from among the local tribal youth, in the armed attack by the Maoists on a police camp in Chhattisgarh early today.
Out of the nearly 50 personnel massacred at the pre-dawn attack at Ranibodli in the sensitive Dantewada district, as many as 34 were Special Police Officers recruited to assist the police in anti-naxal operations. They have been playing a major role in anti-naxal operations in Chhattisgarh. The others kiled were from the Special Armed Force (SAF) personnel.
Among the 12 personnel injured, six were SPOs.
The ministry is worried over the huge loss of lives of SPOs as it may deter the local tribals from serving in the force. In fact, the naxals had targeted SPOs in their attacks earlier also. But this time, the casualty was very high.
The SPOs are recruited from among the local youth for a monthly honorarium of Rs 1,500 and are given training to handle weapons and extend other assistance to the security personnel during patrolling and other operations.
''The SPOs have been of immense help to the security forces in tackling naxalism,'' sources at the ministry said, while pointing out that the incident might also scare away the local people from actively participating in the ''Salwa Judum'', a mass anti-naxal movement gaining momentum in several parts of Chhattisgarh, which has been at the epicentre of continued naxal violence in the past few years.
About 80 personnel from the Armed Police and SPO were in the camp at the time of the attack.
Sources said Home Minister Shivraj Patil spoke to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and assured him of all required help.
Home Secretary V K Duggal and other senior officials in the ministry had been in constant touch with the State Chief Secretary and Director General of Police Om Prakash Rathore.
Sources said the Centre today rushed one helicopter to Dantewada district to undertake evacuation operations. More helicopters are likely to be sent to undertake combing operations in the Bastar region and assist the forces on the ground. "State Home Minister R V Netam and Mr Rathore have already reached the affected area," sources said, adding that a large contingent of personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) also reached the area within a short period after the incident.
"Bomb disposal squad has already begun clearance of landmines in the area." Chhattisgarh was the worst hit among the 13 naxal-hit states during the past two years. More than 700 people were killed in naxal-related incidents during 2004-06.
During 2005-2006, a total of 243 civilians, 43 naxals and 65 security personnel were killed in 639 naxal incidents in Chhattisgarh.
Home Minister Patil told the Rajya Sabha yesterday that the incidents of naxal violence had showed significant decline at the national level in 2006 as compared to the previous year. But the situation was singularly different in Chhattisgarh where the naxal incidents and number of casualties had gone up.
"Naxalite incidents in Chhattisgarh increased by 47.38 per cent and the naxal related killings (in the state) by 57.22 per cent during 2006", Patil said during question hour.
At the national level, he said the number of naxal incidents had gone down by 6.15 per cent in 2006 as compared to 2005.
He said the Centre had sanctioned about 29 India Reserve (IR) battalions to tackle Naxlite menace.
Substantial assistance had been extended to naxal-affected states under the scheme for modernisation of state police forces.