Says ‘deeply sorry’ if any innocent was killed in the operation

Defending the Central Reserve Police Force, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday said its encounter with Maoists in Chhattisgarh was “transparent” and “upfront,” but added that he was “deeply sorry” for the killing of any innocent person.

Meanwhile, the Centre is planning to evolve a new set of ‘standard operating procedures’ (SOP) to carry out operations in the Naxal areas to avoid “collateral” damage.

“CRPF DG [Director-General K. Vijay Kumar] has said he has nothing to hide, nothing to fear…I do not think any Central force has been so transparent. I am the Home Minister and the CRPF is under me. We have been absolutely candid, frank and upfront,” Mr. Chidambaram told journalists here. In the two encounters that took place on June 27, 20 alleged Maoists were killed.

On the demand for inquiry into the allegations of “fake encounter,” Mr. Chidambaram said it was for the Chhattisgarh government to take a call on it as the operation was conducted under the State police.

Refusing to be drawn into any political controversy over the issue, Mr. Chidambaram said: “The encounter for some reason is being called a fake one. If any innocent person has been killed, I am deeply sorry. If any girl, or boy or man or woman not involved with the Maoists at all has been killed, I can only be deeply sorry.”

Pointing out that most of the persons killed were adults with the youngest being 15-year-old, he said: “At least three of them have been identified as having a criminal record.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is planning to come out with new SOP for carrying out operations in Left Wing Extremism-affected areas to avoid any “collateral damage” and save lives of innocent people if spotted with Maoists.

Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh has already had a meeting with the CRPF brass. Forces operating in the Naxal-affected areas are likely to be told to draw a proper strategy to save innocent lives during operations.

In a related development, the MHA has asked all the LWE-affected States to step up vigil fearing retaliatory attacks in view of the recent killing of Maoists in Chhattisgarh. Naxals have also called a bandh for Thursday. In its advisory, the MHA has asked the governments of the LWE-affected States to deploy adequate forces in sensitive areas and step up vigil at strategic locations like railway tracks, bridges and industrial installations.