Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh on Monday said he will press the Centre to review the anti-Naxal strategy in the wake of the extremists targeting civilians in a big way.
Hours after the Naxals blew up a bus in the State, Mr. Singh said he will be travelling to Delhi on Tuesday to discuss the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“I will ask the Prime Minister to re-examine the strategy to deal with the Naxals. The way they are targeting civilians, we have to be prepared,” he said.
“The attacks on the panchayat members and police personnel show that they want to demoralise the people and security forces in the State,” the Chief Minister said.
He said Monday's attack showed the desperation of the Naxals who were losing their support base.
“This incident shows the cruel face of Naxals. We have been saying that when the Naxals' support base finishes they resort to such methods. Their belief in people's representatives and local population has finished,” the Chief Minister said.
“There cannot be police personnel in every village. There are 20,000 villages. The security forces are moving forward in various areas. They are getting trained. We hope that in future we will be able to enhance security in a better way,” he said.
Asked whether the Naxal-affected areas should be handed over to the Army, he said, “it is a different issue.”
He said he will discuss all issues with the Prime Minister.
Mr. Singh announced an ex gratia of Rs. 4 lakh for the kin of each of the civilian victims and Rs. 5 lakh for the families of the SPOs.
‘Total disregard for life'
Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told journalists in New Delhi that the attack showed that Maoists have total disregard for human life.
“The bulk of the people killed were innocent civilians. This pattern of killing unarmed civilians has been the hallmark of Maoist violence over the years,” Mr. Pillai said.
He said that in the last couple of days, Maoists have killed a number of CPI(M) workers in West Bengal, a village sarpanch and five others in Chhattisgarh purely on their so-called inference that they (the victims) were police informers.
“Nobody gives the Maoists any licence to kill and killing of innocent civilians for being alleged police informers does not make them any lesser murderers,” he said.
“We hope that the killing and targeting of innocent civilians travelling in a civilian bus is to be strongly condemned by all right-thinking people,” he said.
Asked about the anti-Maoist strategy of the government, he said: “Our strategy is quite effective where we have put in our security grid. We would continue with our strategy which will have long term dividend.”
HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said left-wing extremism is a big threat to the country and the government will have to tackle it through a policy framework.
He said handling of security is the second major achievement of UPA-II which is set to complete one year next week.
“We have to careful and be prepared,” Mr. Sibal told journalists in New Delhi on the sidelines of the Shri Ram memorial lecture.
He hailed Home Minister P. Chidambaram and said people felt the country's security is in safe hands.
Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the Home Ministry Utthan Kumar Bansal said the toll in the attack on the bus could be “pretty heavy” as the vehicle had the capacity to carry 65 to 70 passengers, who were both policemen and civilians.
Asked whether most of the passengers in the bus were civilians, he said “I would guess so.”
Mr. Bansal said he had no information about the exact number of casualties as of now. “I don't have information about the injured,” he said.
Mr. Bansal said the Special Police Officers, who fell prey to the Naxal attack, were on their way to participate in recruitment to the regular police force.
“The passengers of the bus were partly civilians and partly SPOs who were proceeding for some kind of a recruitment from Sukma,” he said.
Asked whether the SPOs were fresh recruits, Mr. Bansal said: “I presume so. The information that I have is that these people were SPOs. The system is that SPOs are not deployed on the roads like regular police officers and apparently some of them have been inducted into the regular police now and perhaps they were going for that kind of an induction. But this is a very preliminary report.”