Raipur: The government promised on Tuesday to review its strategy on battling Naxalites, as the chief minister of the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh warned that an operation will be launched "with more firmness" and "vigour" against the guerrillas in the coming days.
Shaken by the audacious Naxalite attack on Monday that left 25 Central Reserve Police Force personnel dead in Chattisgarh's Sukma district, the centre and the state government are making it clear that they will strike back in equal measure. Most telling were the comments by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who rushed to Chattisgarh capital Raipur Tuesday morning. "The sacrifice of our brave jawans will not go in vain," he told a press conference. He said a meeting of all Naxal-hit states will be held on May 8 to look at ways of rooting out Left Wing extremism.
"We will review the strategy (of dealing with Naxailtes) and if necessary we will revisit it," he said after paying homage to the CRPF personnel killed in the ambush. The government has a two-pronged anti-Naxal strategy -- with armed operations followed by development activities, such as constructing roads, health centres and schools, in the affected areas.
The security operations are carried out by paramilitary forces with support from state police. Singh said the guerrillas are seeking to destabilise development in the state and using tribals as fodder.
"They are being used as human shields," he said. "We are working to root out the problem of Left Wing extremism," the minister stressed, describing the attack as a cold blooded murder. "It was an act of cowardice and desperation," he said. "We have accepted it as a challenge."
The attack targeted a 100-strong CRPF patrol that was providing security for road construction work in the Kalapathar area of south Bastar, a region where Left-Wing extremism is rampant. The fierce gunfire from Maoist guerrillas occupying vantage positions - the deadliest attack on security forces in the state this year -- lasted about three hours and left at least 25 CRPF personnel dead and seven wounded. Chattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, who also addressed the press conference along with the home minister, said anti-Naxal operations would be conducted with "more vigour" in the coming days.
"An operation with more firmness will be conducted in the coming days," he said. "I believe that the fight against Naxals in Sukma is the biggest battle being fought against LWE in the country. We have decided to enhance our activities and construction work in the region," he said.
The home minister and the chief minister also visited hospitals where the injured CRPF personnel are being treated. Expressing condolence to the bereaved families, the home minister said, "the Naxals are frustrated with the development of roads in Bastar region. But they will not succeed in their evil designs." He asserted that the Centre and the state would work together to take the Naxals on.
The home minister earlier visited the headquarters of the 4th battalion of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force in the Mana camp where a wreath-laying ceremony was held. Chhattisgarh Governor Balramji Das Tandon, the chief minister, Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir and senior state and paramilitary officials were present on the occasion. Asked by a reporter at the press conference if the attack indicated an "Intelligence failure", Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, "This is not the time for a blame game." To a query on why a full-time director general of the CRPF had not been appointed, he said, "We don't have a dearth of leadership...whenever needed we will appoint a senior officer here."