Terming the Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh as a "holocaust", Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh today said the ultras resorted to such acts as they felt threatened with the pace of development work.
Condemning the "barbaric incident", he felt the killing of the senior Congress leaders of the state was a big blow for the party but it will rise to the challenge.
"What happened yesterday was a holocaust. I was with my friends Nandkumar Patel, Kawasai Lakma, Mahendra Karma (the slain leaders) on Thursday in Bijapur district and before leaving, I had promised to rejoin them very soon. I did not expect, anticipate or imagine the massacre that took place," a visibly shaken Ramesh told reporters here.
27 people, including Chhattisgarh Congress chief Patel and his son Dinesh, senior leader Karma and ex-MLA Uday Mudliyar, were killed and 32 others injured in the Maoist ambush in a forested area.
Ramesh, however, said there would be no change in the government's two-pronged strategy of providing security and carrying out development activities following the incident and that it would "intensify" the development works in the 20-25 most affected districts.
He said over the last couple of years, Congress party made a determined effort to expand presence in Naxal-affected districts implementing rural development programmes like MGNREGA, Indira Awas Yojayan, and watershed mission which had started showing their impact.
"However, Maoists certainly don't like it and demonstrated once again that they have no faith whatsoever in our political system, in democracy, in electoral politics and constitutional values and all the talk of tribal welfare for them is a sham, is an excuse, and an alibi for perpetrating the violent overthrown of a democratic system," he said.
"This is not only an attack on democracy, this is an attack on the Congress party," he noted, adding the incident has raised concerns over whether to enhance security operations.
With Assembly polls six months away, he felt holding political activities would increasingly become difficult. "If we can't do 'aam sabhas', how will political parties function."
On talks to bring back the ultras to the mainstream, the Rural Development Minister that "this is not the time for talks".
The slain leader Patel, he said, had completely transformed the Congress party in Chhatisgarh. He was proactive and travelled all over the place while Karma was active on tribal issues.
"The attack is a grievous blow to Congress in Chattisgarh. Our resilience will be tested but we will rise to the challenge," he said.
Political activities, he said, are key to the development issue because "where political parties are weak, Maoists are strong, where political parties are strong, Maoists are weak".
He emphasised on the issue of the enhanced security and development works in the Naxal-affected regions, saying such an approach had helped in containing the Naxal problem in Andhra Pradesh and other areas.
"It is because of presence of security that MGNREGA programme is doing well. Where there is security, contractors come for work. Without security, I do not think, development work can take place," he said. Local police should also be at the forefront ably supported by the security forces, he said.
Ramesh, who has made frequent trips the Naxal-affected districts, saod that the Naxals have been able to foment trouble capitalising on the issues of displacement, tribal deprivation and discontentment.
He said the Naxal-affected districts in Chhatisgarh had seen increased developmental activities over the years on expansion of MGNREGA programme in more areas, payment of wages to the beneficiaries, construction of rural roads and training activities for the youth.
These activies, however, did not go down well with the Maoists who "felt threatened with the pace of development," he said.
He said the slain leaders had been attacked also despite the fact that they had been working for the tribals. Patel, who was targeted earlier also, had met the state governor demanding a CBI probe into an incident in which eight adivasis were killed.