Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said here on Tuesday that there was no collateral damage of any significance in the ongoing operation against Maoists and steps were being taken to ensure that innocent people were not affected.

On Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s opposition to the joint operations, he said: “She has a point of view and I have taken note of that point of view. She is concerned that innocent people should not be affected by the operations and we are taking steps to see that innocent people are not affected.”

He said: “Mamata Banerjee also said that the operation in West Medinipur is not yielding the results that we had hoped to achieve at the start of the operations. I have said that we will try to make it as effective as possible.”

The objective was to re-establish a civil administration in areas now under Maoist domination, he said adding that he had told Ms. Banerjee that progress would be slow but steady.

‘No collusion’

Asked about charges against the Trinamool that it was colluding with Maoists, he said: “As far as I am concerned, nobody is colluding with Maoists. Any political party in India believing in parliamentary democracy cannot collude with Maoists.”

“The Maoists are fighting the Central and State governments. They believe in an armed liberation struggle. They have called the parliamentary system a pig sty,” he said.

“It is up to West Bengal to seize illegal arms”

In response to the Congress State leadership’s demand to seize illegal arms during combing operations in West Bengal, the Union Home Minister reportedly said that it was up to the State government to decide and act on the matter.

A delegation of senior Congress leaders met the Minister at the Raj Bhavan, demanding that “combing operations be carried out to seize all illegal firearms in West Bengal to create a congenial political atmosphere.”

“We told Mr. Chidambaram that the presence of a large number of illegal arms was one of the main reasons for rampant violence in West Bengal and that there should be a drive to seize all arms, irrespective of party affiliation,” said Pradip Bhattacharjee, working president of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee.

“Mr. Chidambaram said that according to the Constitution, this was a State subject and it was up to the West Bengal government to decide on the matter and take action,” Mr. Bhattacharjee added.

“Mr. Chidambaram is very serious about the situation in West Bengal and the deteriorating law and order condition. He assured us that he will look into the matter, but said it was up to the State government to take action,” Congress Legislature Party leader Manas Bhunia said.

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