Naxals may have links with LeT: Chhattisgarh CM

Naxals may have links with LeT: Chhattisgarh CM

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh addresses a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday. AFPTwo days after naxals carried out another major strike in his state in a month killing 35 people, Singh said the Left-wing extremists were now better trained and "force" would have to be applied along with development to deal with the problem.

Addressing a press conference here, he said he was getting adequate support from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram.|

"Who else can be termed as terrorists? They are the biggest terrorists....Naxalism is a biggest challenge to the democracy. They want to capture power at gunpoint," Singh said when asked whether naxals were terrorists.

Giving details of naxal activities in last 10 years in the state, he said they have killed more than 1000 civilians and over 650 policemen besides blowing up 132 electric towers, 106 school buildings and three hospitals in the state.

The Chief Minister said the naxals were better trained now as was indicated by the recent incident in Dantewada where they blew up a bus.

"Though I have no confirmation but some facts have come to light indicating that naxals may have some connection with Lashkar (LeT) militants... The manner in which they are using IEDs, explosives and weapons with 100 per cent technical surety shows there are experts behind this who are giving them training," Singh said.

To a question, he said aerial support was welcome but air strikes could not be an option in the naxal-infested areas because it could have collateral damage.

"There are landmines in upto 100 kms in an area. If there is a blast it will take hours to take the injured to hospital by road. Army helicopters can be used here. And also for supplying emergency rations," Singh said.

"But I don't recommend use of air power as Chhattisgarh has a huge dense forest cover inhabited by tribals and if any such attack is launched, then they will suffer greatly... Bombing is not possible in these areas. This is not a war," he added.

To a question, Raman Singh said, "There cannot be any hard or soft line to tackle naxalism. What has been achieved by adopting a soft line against them in the last 50 years?"

The Chief Minister said the strategy was to continue with the development process in Maoist-infested areas. "At the same time force should also be applied to deal with them," he said.

He also said a joint strategy with Centre is needed on a long term basis to fight naxalists.

When asked about the support his state is getting from the Centre, Singh said it has been "adequate" and specifically mentioned the Prime Minister and the Home Minister as the ones who have always supported him.

"We have several central forces like ITBP, CRPF. But there are no differences (with Centre). Other states may have, I do not know," he said.

He, however, criticised senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh for commenting on naxal issues and said only the Prime Minister or the Home Minister should speak on such matters.

"Some people feel they are experts on the subject (of naxalism) and continuously issue statements after every naxal incident.... The issue should be kept away from politics... It is not a political issue where statements need to be issued," Raman said when asked about Digvijay's recent comments criticising his government on handling of the naxal issue.

On comments by the Congress leader that naxals needed to be brought into the mainstream, Raman Singh said, "he (Digvijay) was Chief Minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh for 10 years. Who stopped him from doing so? Why did he not bring them into the mainstream?"

He criticised human rights groups, saying they create a lot of media hype about violation of human rights during operations against naxals.

"While we are trying to tackle them, the human rights groups keep on crying about the large scale violation of human rights. If we arrest somebody (indirectly referring to arrest of human rights activist Binayak Sen) then a plane full of activists descend on Chhattisgarh and start protesting against us while staying in plush hotels and then fly back to Delhi in the evening," Raman said.

The Chhattisgarh Chief Minister said there was a need to change the strategy to fight naxals as they have also altered tactics from waging guerrilla warfare to mobile war. "There is no last word on the strategy to be adopted against Maoists. We also have to change our strategy," he said.

He rubbished allegations that area domination operations by security forces were aimed at giving a free run to multinational companies to mine in Bastar region.

"The mining is done by (state-owned) MMTC and SAIL and no private company is involved in iron ore mining," he said.

He added the "propaganda" being spread by Maoists that Bastar is being vacated for a mining purposes "is wrong" and so are their claims on land reforms.

Appealing to the people to join in the fight against naxals, he said, "There should be no delay." The naxals, he said, were carrying out the killings with impunity.

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