NEW DELHI — Violence by Maoist rebels in India peaked in 2010, leaving a record 1,169 people dead, government figures show.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters Tuesday that 713 civilians died in Maoist-linked violence in 2010, compared to the previous year’s tally of 591.
A total of 285 policemen and 171 suspected leftwing guerrillas were also killed last year, which started on a bloody note with the massacre of 76 police by rebels in the insurgency-riven state of Chhattisgarh in April.
“It will be apparent that the Naxalites (Maoists) have not only spurned the offer of (peace) talks but have also escalated the conflict,” the Indian minister said.
Mineral-rich Chhattisgarh remained in the eye of Maoist violence during 2010 with 306 murders, including 142 civilians and 164 security men, according to latest figures published by the state government.
In comparison, 458 people died in the insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir last year, marking the lowest ebb in violence in the disputed Himalayan region in a decade, according to regional police chief Kuldip Khoda.
Maoist experts have begun asking questions over India’s strategy to tackle the leftwing guerrillas, who are entrenched in deep jungles across a swathe of northern and eastern India.
“Security personnel are being killed because of the gross negligence in their combat training,” Basant Ponwar, director of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College in Chhattisgarh, told AFP on Wednesday.
The Maoist movement, which began in 1967, feeds off land disputes, police brutality and corruption and is strongest in the poorest and most deprived areas of India, many of which are rich in natural resources.
Premier Manmohan Singh, who has labelled the insurgency the number one threat to India’s internal security, has repeatedly urged state administrations to speed up pro-poor welfare measures specially in Maoist-hit regions.