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West Bengal cannot say ‘no’ to ban on Maoists: Buddhadeb

Marcus Dam

“How to enforce the order against the outfit is our business”

KOLKATA: The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act under which the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has been deemed a banned outfit is applicable across the country “and West Bengal is no exception” though “how far the States will go [enacting it], whom to arrest, how to arrest and when is our business; that we will decide,” West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said here on Tuesday.

“This is a Central Act and is applicable to all States. We just cannot say ‘no’ we do not want to accept it [in West Bengal],” he told journalists, even as the operation by security forces against the Maoists and activists of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janashadharaner Committee in the Lalgarh area of the State entered its sixth day.

Pointing out that the CPI (Maoist) is now banned in the State as stipulated by the Act, Mr. Bhattacharjee said a “holistic” approach was required to tackle Maoist activism. It should comprise socio-economic development in areas where the extremists were trying to extend their influence, a political campaign to isolate them from the people and strong administrative steps against their activities.

“There is a strong opinion that administrative action is not enough and should be backed up with a political campaign” against the Maoists, he said in a reference to the call by the ruling Left Front to counter the outfit’s activities politically.

“What is also imperative is that the State government continues with development schemes to improve the lives of the people [being influenced by the Maoists],” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

Earlier Mr. Bhattacharjee held a meeting with his Cabinet colleagues where the developments at Lalgarh were among the issues discussed.

The joint operations will continue, the Chief Minister said. “We are raising our combat forces and it is increasing in number [to tackle Maoist activities] … A new battalion is also being raised by the Kolkata police to combat other types of terrorist groups,” he added.

Rejecting the argument that there has been no development in areas such as Lalgarh where the Maoists are active, he said a task force had been set up to oversee development in the economically backward areas of the State and much work had been done over the past year, though much more needed to be done.

Socio-economic backwardness was, however, not the only factor giving rise to terrorism, he said. If that were so how did one explain the terrorism in the name of the Khalistan movement in Punjab — a State whose per capita income was among the highest in the country, he asked.

On whether there was need for separate legislation in the State to enact the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against banned outfits, Mr. Bhattacharjee replied in the negative.

The Chief Minister said he had got to know that the Centre was contemplating adding the CPI (Maoist) to the list of banned organisations during his discussions with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram in New Delhi last week.

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