Policy on Naxals permits swaps

The Centre has finalised a uniform Naxal hostage policy for the states, drifting clearly from a no-negotiation stand, as suggested by certain state governments. Suggesting a “swap deal” can be struck with Maoists, the hostage policy says steps should be taken to ensure minimum setbacks to the state machinery. The ministry of home affairs policy also clearly spells out a Plan B that involves moving in “special forces” if talks with Maoists fail. These special forces could consist of personnel from Andhra Pradesh’s Greyh-ounds or any other specialised force in the states. The states, separately, also have the option of requisitioning Central forces for rescue operations in a contingency situation.

Raman Singh, chief minister of Chhattisgarh, the state worst hit by Naxal violence, had pitched for a uniform “no-negotiation policy” in hostage situations following the abduction of Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon. Mr Singh had then pitched for a national hostage policy in which a swap deal would “not be an option” even if it involved the abduction of the head of a state government. But the MHA’s uniform policy guidelines say negotiations may be carried out by state governments to free any hostages taken by Mao-ists. However, it adds a word of caution: that the state should not bend over backwards and rele-ase hardcore CPI (Maoist) leaders. It also says that a panel of experts should be appointed by the state concerned to negotiate with the Maoists soon after an abduction.

The uniform Naxal hostage policy drafted by the MHA has been circulated to state governments for comments. The MHA is holding a high-level meeting with the chief secretaries and DGPs of nine Naxal-affected states on Thursday where the matter is expected to come up.

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