War against Maoists will be long-drawn: Raman Singh (Interview)

Raipur, July 21 (Calcutta Tube) His state is the worst to be hit by Maoist insurgency in India. But despite a series of deadly attacks in 2010, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh is confident that his government is ‘capable of finishing’ the rebels although the war will be ‘long-drawn’.

‘The Chhattisgarh government is not losing the war against Maoists. The government is well capable of finishing them,’ says Raman Singh, who has been heading the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the mineral-rich but largely impoverished state since December 2003.

‘The Maoist problem in Chhattisgarh dates back some 25-30 years. There was some violence in the state all these years but in recent years, it has surged,’ Singh told IANS in an interview.

‘That has put the state in the news even though we have several remarkable achievements in the development sector besides a role-model food security scheme for 3.7 million poor families. But these achievements have been overshadowed by Maoist violence-related news,’ the chief minister added.

Maoist violence has claimed over 2,000 lives, including those of nearly 1,000 civilians, in Chhattisgarh since November 2000 when the state came into existence after being carved out of Madhya Pradesh.

When asked why Chhattisgarh was failing to emulate the success story of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh in the war against Maoists, the 57-year-old politician said: ‘Modernisation of the police force in Chhattisgarh, a new state, began just four years back while Andhra Pradesh began it more than a decade ago.’

‘The war against Maoists is long-drawn. We should have patience. I am sure Chhattisgarh will repeat Andhra Pradesh’s success story with several steps, including police modernisation as well as a massive all-round development of troubled areas,’ Raman Singh said.

Officials at the police headquarters here say roughly 40,000 troopers, with about 50 percent drawn from the central paramilitary forces, are fighting Maoist insurgency in Chhattisgarh.

The controversial civil militia movement Salwa Judum was also launched in June 2005 to counter the rebels. The state government maintains that it is ‘a spontaneous public outburst against Maoists’ while civil rights activists say it is ‘a fully government-funded movement’. However, it has held no public meetings for the past 18 months.

Raman Singh hit out at Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh for what he called a sustained campaign against Chhattisgarh to portray that the state is mishandling the Maoist issue.

‘The union home minister (P. Chidambaram) held several meetings with the Chhattisgarh government on the Maoist issue and this month home secretary (G.K. Pillai) too had a meeting with us in the state,’ Raman Singh said.

‘They (Chidambaram and Pillai) did not criticise us for any mishandling. So why is an extra player desperate to make goals?’ he asked referring to Digvijay Singh.

In 2010 alone, over 200 people, mostly paramilitary troopers, have been killed in the Maoist insurgency. This includes the massacre of 76 security personnel in a single attack April 6 in Dantewada district.

Dantewada along with Bijapur, Narayanpur, Bastar and Kanker districts forms the 40,000 sq km Bastar region. The entire forested hamlet of the region has been considered the nerve centre of Maoist militancy in India since the late 1980s. Up to 25,000 sq km of Bastar are believed to be intensively mined by Maoists.

(Sujeet Kumar can be contacted at sujeet.k@ians.in)

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