Confusion over Army marching into Naxal areas


Raipur, July 7

Confusion prevails among officials of the Chhattisgarh administration and the police authorities on the question whether the Army will march into the areas worst hit by the Maoists, especially Bastar, to fight the “red terror”.

Should they believe Defence Minister AK Antony or Union Home Secretary Gopal K Pillai on the issue? The arrival of the Army will make it a different ball game.

Media reports from Bangalore on Tuesday quoted Antony as saying that Army units would be deployed in Chhattisgarh to help the police and paramilitary personnel in their fight against the Maoists. Pillai yesterday ruled out the use of Army at this stage in any manner. Pillai spent Monday and Tuesday in Chhattisgarh to assess security situation and development issues.

Meanwhile, Maoist-sponsored 48-hour bandh began today. The call has been given in protest against the killing of their top leader Cherkuri Rajkumar, alias Azad, in a police encounter in Adilabad of Andhra Pradesh on July 2. The Maoists have alleged that Azad was “murdered” by a joint intelligence team of Andhra Pradesh and the Centre.

As the Maoists have taken a pledge to take revenge, Chhattisgarh, like other Naxal-infested states, is on high alert. Till late evening, no incident was reported from any part of the state. However, markets were closed and public and private transport off the roads. The life in Raipur was normal. Maoist violence has claimed over 100 lives of CRPF men in several ambushes this year.

Antony had said that short of directly participating in the operations against Naxalites, the Army would do everything possible to help the state police and the central paramilitary forces to tackle guerrillas effectively. “We shall give the police and the paramilitary forces full logistic support. We shall give them more training. We shall give them aircraft,” Antony said. He, however, acknowledged that calling the Army for internal law and order problem should be the “last resort,” and “I am confident that the state police and paramilitary forces would be able to put an end to the Naxalite challenge.”

Ruling out the use of the Army, Pillai said the Cabinet had only cleared the plan to deploy IAF helicopters in inhospitable Naxal-dominated areas for quick response to reinforcement of central paramilitary forces and rescue missions “and they won’t be available for offensive operations”.

“I do not think that the Army is required at this stage to fight Naxals,” Pillai told The Tribune while flying back to New Delhi on Tuesday night. He reached this conclusion after getting first-hand reports from top officers of the paramilitary forces, which include the BSF and the CRPF, and the state police.