Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has convened a meeting of Chief Ministers and key officials of four eastern States hit by ultra-left extremist activities. The meeting is scheduled to be held on February 9 at the Writer’s Buildings — the State Secretariat — West Bengal Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen said.

The meeting will be held two days after a congregation of Chief Ministers in New Delhi, to be held by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The meeting is scheduled to discuss internal security and other common issues.

Responding to a question, Mr. Sen said the meeting at the Secretariat was expected to be attended by the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa and Bihar.

The recent escalation in Maoist violence is believed to have spurred the Centre to call for a brain-storming session on the issue, which Dr. Singh identified as one of the major challenges facing the country now. A re-look at existing strategies and formulation of new ones is also on the cards.

Mr. Sen said West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee may not be able to attend the meeting in New Delhi due to pre-occupations in the city.

In recent weeks, the State has seen a step-up in Maoist activities, and new Governor M.K. Narayanan observed that “Left-extremist forces have become active in the three western districts of the State and engaged in large scale violence.”

Mr. Narayanan also said political murders and blockades made it difficult for the government to carry out development projects and welfare schemes, and that the Joint Action Police Forces were deployed in these districts after discussions with the Centre.

Vinay Kumar reports from New Delhi:

After a meeting with Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren here on Thursday, Mr. Chidambaram said the anti-naxal operations would stop only if the Left-wing extremists abjured violence and decided to come to the negotiating table.

Mr. Soren had said that his government was on board with the Centre on the joint operations against naxals.

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