Naxalism single biggest internal security challange: PM

Naxalism single biggest internal security challange: PM
New Delhi, Apr 13 (PTI) Calling it the "single biggest internal security challenge," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today suggested setting up of joint unified commands in areas badly hit by Naxalism and dedicated wings of grey hounds on the pattern of Andhra Pradesh to tackle the menace.

He also suggested two-pronged strategy of effective police response and socio-economic development of the naxal-affected areas be given high priority.

"It would not be exaggeration to say that the problem of Naxalism is the single biggest internal security challange ever faced by our country," Singh said while addressing a day-long meeting here of Chief Ministers of six states, severely hit by naxalism. He also met Chief Ministers of naxal-hit states at his residence in the morning.

Asking states to consider undertaking joint operations and setting up of joint unified commands in the badly-affeceted core areas, Singh said the police action needed to be backed by liberal surrender and rehabilitation policy. He favoured setting up of a dedicated anti-naxal wings under capable officers on the pattern of grey hounds of Andhra Pradesh.

The Prime Minister also talked about a pro-active approach to deal with the menace saying there should be measures for protecting policemen from undue harassment for actions taken against naxalites. However, he also added that an effective police response does not mean that we need to brutalise the Indian state.

The meeting was attended by the Chief Ministers of Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhara Pradesh, Jharkhand, Union Ministers of Home, Tribal Affairs and Panchayti Raj, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, National Security Advisor and senior government officials from Centre and state governments. Discussing the overall scenario in the affected states and the increasing intensity of naxal violence, the states unanimously agreed to pursue a long term multi-pronged approach and strategy to combat the naxalite menace simultaneouly on political security and development fronts.

The menace of naxalism was a threat to democracy and there was no place for violence in a democratic set-up, the meeting resolved.

Singh expressed concern over the changing character of the naxalism into militarisation with "superior army style organisation, better trained cadres, attacks on large targets through large scale frontal assaults, better coordination and possible external links." "we must recognise that such extremism is a threat to our democracy, our way of life," he said.

Emphasising the need to strengthen the local police on all fronts, Singh said they needed to be "better trained and equipped to face an enemy who is evolving into a major force. We need to improve their weapons, buildings and vehicles. We need to invest heavily in their capabilities.

The Prime Minister recalled Charu Mazumdar, the founder of naxal movement in West Bengal nearly four decades back, and said the late leader had once talked of a 'spring thunder over India'. "Today, almost 40 years later, the naxalite movement may have lost much of its intellectual attraction but has gained in strength and has now now spread to over 160 districts all over the country.

The Prime Minister said there have been "qualitiative changes" in the character of the movement which has now adopted new methods and tactics.

"The change in character of the movement, including growing militarisation and superior army style organisation, "needs to be recognised and all responses on our side must be guided by this new reality," he said.

"The ideological base of the movement has diminished and there are many lumpen elements now in the movement. However, there seems to be also some support from deprived and alienated sections of the population," he said adding there was a need to look closely at the causes of this deprivation and alienation.

Singh said it was a cause for concern that civil administration and police were periodically absent in some of the core areas where the ultras were trying to establish 'liberation zones.' Pointing to a a multi-pronged strategy to combat the menace, Singh said there was a need to strengthen the local police on all fronts, establishing special forces on the pattern of grey hounds, police action supported by effective intelligence gathering and coordinated approach among states.

Asking the Chief Ministers to focus on "good governance", Singh said they could initiate another wave of rural reforms which can ensure employment and land to the poorest in these areas. The CMs could also promote local participation in governance through Panchayati Raj, he said.

In his address, Home Minister Shivraj Patil made it clear that there was no no place for violence and extremism of any kind in a democratic and rule-based society.

In the year's first quarter, Chhattisgarh accounted to over 40 per cent of total naxal violence and 65 per cent of total casualties, that is 137.

According to the authorities, the high level of violence in Chhattisgarh is due to effective action by security forces and the ongoing "popular uprising" against naxalites, locally called 'salva judum' in Dantewada district.

Noting that naxalism was an inter-state proble, Patil said the states have been asked to establish joint task forces.

Replying to questions after the meeting, Patil said the states have been asked to fill up vacancies in police forces and raise new India Reserve Battalions with central assistance.

Asked if the Government was considering amending the Forest Act to meet the demands of the tribals including having land ownership, the Minister said changes will be brought about if necessary. A bill for giving land ownership certificates is now being studied by a Parliamentary standing committtee, he added.

Patil also said Government was working on connecting remote areas in the naxal-hit states by road and taking firm states in consultation with railway authorities to improve passenger safety.

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