Top cops, officials to discuss Maoist offensive

NEW DELHI: Police chiefs and chief secretaries of 13 state hit by Maoist violence will meet here on Friday to finetune a strategic response, prompted by unrelenting violence in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar that has left hundreds dead in the last three months.


The dramatic upsurge in violence this year has forced New Delhi to review its approach as its policy of sharing intelligence among affected states and setting up joint task forces has not paid dividends in stemming the rebellion.

Besides reviewing anti-Maoist operations, police chiefs and home ministry officials are also expected to discuss plans to safeguard railway property and increase the deployment of the Railway Protection Force (RPF).

"Violence is rising and the Maoists are getting stronger and are coordinating their operations," admitted a ministry official.

Proof of this was seen in the dramatic hijacking of the Barwadi-Mughalsarai passenger train in Jharkhand earlier this month when Maoist guerrillas held 300 terrified passengers hostage for an entire night.

This was preceded by a landmine attack in neighbouring Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district in which more than 50 tribals were killed. Four troopers died in a siege on the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) camp in the same district.

Officials say Chhattisgarh has borne the brunt of violence with nearly 100 people killed in the last three months, mostly in the thickly forested tribal stronghold of the Bastar region that includes Kanker, Bastar and Dantewada districts.

The Chhattisgarh police chief is expected to ask New Delhi for army engineers to de-mine jungle roads and air force choppers to conduct aerial surveys to detect guerrilla activity.

"A majority of civilian and police casualties are because of rogue landmines. If we can help in clearing them (landmines) it will enable the forces to move into interior areas," said an intelligence official.

Clearly, though the home ministry has set up a special Maoist cell to coordinate police operations in various states and has deployed the elite National Security Guards (NSG) for strikes in Chhattisgarh and Bihar, it has failed to stem the resurgent Maoist wave.

Maoist-affected states like Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar have some of the lowest ratios of police to population in the country and money that has been allocated for police modernisation and expansion is yet to be utilised.

Nearly 1,000 people died in Maoist-violence last year, with the rebels gradually expanding influence to around 165 of the country's 602 administrative districts.

More than 6,000 people have died in the two-decade insurgency by the rebels.

Von: Friday March 31 2006 00:00 IST,

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