As advisor to Jharkhand governor Syed Ahmed, former CRPF DG K. Vijay Kumar has been given charge of the state home department, an appointment that has greatly pleased the security establishment. Excerpts from a conversation with Outlook.
Why do you think Maoist violence last year claimed more lives in Jharkhand than even Chhattisgarh?
It’s an alarming trend despite the huge success story of the Indian state in Saranda. With Jairam Ramesh leading the charge, the government is winning over the public with innovative development projects in an erstwhile Maoist stronghold. Policing and development are two legs for marching ahead, whether it’s Vietnam, Malaya, J&K, the Northeast or Jharkhand.
But how come Jharkhand has surged ahead of Chhattisgarh?
There is no direct answer. But unlike Chhattisgarh, there are multiple Maoist outfits in Jharkhand. Moreover, elements in Jharkhand are aligned with Naxalite guerrillas in Bihar. I would think there are more casualties because of splinter groups.
Is Jharkhand the new Abujmarh?
I don’t think so. Abujmarh was not surveyed during British rule. Until 2006 one required a permit to enter the area. Last year, the crpf made forays into Abujmarh to ensure that it’s not a law unto itself. But Jharkhand is vastly different. If any part of the state can be compared to Abujmarh, it’s the area around Mandal dam (trijunction of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh). But I am told that the local police is now active there.
What’s your strategy for combating red terror in Jharkhand?
We are trying to figure that out. It should be a combination of police action followed by rapid and focused development. But ultras have to be neutralised first. Our tactical plans will be based on the state DGP’s assessment. By police action I don’t mean just cordons, raids and searches but also ensuring overall security so that ordinary people are at ease.
We lost many boys in the Katiya attack because of the bad terrain. But nobody fled; they fought back bravely. The belly bombs have triggered a big outcry. Now we must win over fence-sitters, take legal cases to their logical culmination and quickly address deficit in governance.
Are helicopter gunships the solution in bad terrain?
I have to abide by the government’s policy which at the moment prohibits the use of aerial firepower.
But Maoist gunmen snipe at helicopters. Aren’t you tempted to spray them too with automatic weapons from the air?
Strafing is not the solution even when Maoists target helicopters. We face this problem from time to time but engaging targets on the ground from flying machines is simply ruled out.
Are you opposed to peace talks?
I don’t have a personal opinion—it’s a question of the central government’s (prevailing) doctrine.
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