The state must use all legitimate means to “quell” armed insurgency, political parties — stunned by the carnage in Chhattisgarh on May 25, when 26 Congress activists were killed by Maoists — agreed on Monday.

A unanimous joint resolution passed at an all-party meeting called by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here urged the Central and State governments to adopt “the two-pronged strategy of sustained operations to clear the areas of Maoist influence and pursue the objectives of effective governance and rapid development.” But equally, the resolution stressed the need “to use all legitimate means to defend the security of the country and its institutions and quell armed insurgency and violence.” In a rare show of unity, they also resolved to “remain united and ... speak in one voice and act with a sense of unified purpose and will.”

In his opening remarks, Dr. Singh said there was need to further fine-tune and strengthen the strategy the government had adopted of “sustained and proactive operations against Maoist extremists and addressing development and governance issues in left wing extremism-affected areas.”

Addressing the gathering, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said political parties must “send out a clear and unambiguous signal that we believe that political engagement and developmental programmes are absolutely essential in the Maoist affected areas.” But while “fulfilling their responsibilities, the security forces, the development agencies and the political workers must convince the people that the rights of the tribal communities will be fully protected and the injustices of the past will be redressed,” she said.

Acknowledging that the parties gathered had often differed on many issues, Ms. Gandhi made an appeal for unity on this matter: “This is the very least we can do to pay tribute to our courageous colleagues, police personnel and villagers who became martyrs to the cause of Indian democracy.”

Describing last month’s massacre in Chhattisgarh as “a frontal attack on democratic foundations of the nation,” Dr. Singh said, “The strength and robustness of the democratic forces in our country would suffer if the space for political activity gets restricted because of fear or terror.” It was for the first time, he said, that Naxals had targeted the top leadership of a political party in a “systematic” manner.

This sentiment was reflected in the resolution. “It was an attack on democracy, freedom, and free speech and expression. Nothing can be more dangerous to our Republic than the insurgency of the CPI (Maoist) in pursuit of its misguided goal of overthrowing parliamentary democracy and the Constitution of India through violent means. The Indian state cannot, and will not, accept the pernicious Maoist doctrine.”

Those who attended the meeting included Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Leaders of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, BSP chief Mayawati, SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shiv Sena leader Anant Geete and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav.

Shinde non-committal

Mr. Shinde, stressing that such a strong resolution had never been passed in the past, remained non-committal when asked if the government would use the military against the Naxals: “I will not say anything on taking military assistance but we are contemplating very strict action. When such attacks take place, it is our duty to protect democracy,” he said.

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