Army gets power to fire at Naxals

Army gets power to fire at Naxals

Force can only retaliate in self defence when attacked

The Army wanted clarification on the “rules of engagement” against the Naxals as it is setting up two big training facilities in Chhattishgarh, one of which is inside the Maoist territory.

“The Army is not there to fight against Naxalism but, at the same time, the government gave them some standard operation procedure (SOP) for their self defence,” Defence Minister A K Antony said here on the sidelines of a seminar.

The SOP, explained a defence ministry official, was nothing but giving the Army legal rights to open fire at the Maoists if fired upon. The new SOP was discussed at a meeting of the Army central command last week.

The Army was allotted close to 100 acres at Abujhmad inside Bastar where a training facility would be set up under the central command.

Moreover, the Army would take over Bilaspur airport for establishing a new set-up for special forces. The para-commando training facility at Nahan will be shifted to Chhattishgarh.

The Indian Air Force, which ferries police and paramilitary personnel in the Naxal heartland, had obtained similar permissions after one of the IAF choppers came under Naxal firing during the last general election.

Even though the Army is not used to fight the Maoists, its presence in Chhattishgarh would boost existing anti-Naxal operations, which received a body blow from the Supreme Court that asked the government to stop recruiting the local tribal as “special police officer” and arm them for fight against naxals.

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