Centre open to air strikes against Naxals
New Delhi: The central government is open to the controversial move of using limited air strikes to combat Naxal threat and is likely to convene a crucial meeting of chief ministers of Naxal-affected states in the first week of December, primarily to discuss this issue. The meeting was earlier scheduled to be held this month but was deferred by the home ministry in the wake of Bihar assembly elections. The centre has been considering use of air power against Naxals in order to assist security forces on the ground. Both home and defence ministries are formulating a strategy as to how Mi-17 helicopters can be used in some operations against Maoists, especially in situations where civilian population is not involved, said a senior government official involved in anti-Naxal operations, requesting anonymity.
“The meeting with chief ministers is crucial as apart from development work in Naxal-affected areas, we want to push for use of air power in some form in operations against Maoists. We feel providing air cover to forces on the ground will be of huge advantage in neutralising Naxal cadres.” Currently, Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters are being used in Maoist-affected states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha in relief and rescue operations and to transport injured security personnel to hospitals.
There is a growing view in New Delhi’s security establishment that the choppers should have a greater role in providing air cover to security forces on the ground, and whether the choppers should be used to fire from air or be deployed during hot pursuits to provide information to troops on the ground regarding the movement of Maoists. “In the initial phase, we may use the choppers first in providing information to the security personnel on the ground. We feel this will act as a huge deterrent,” said the government official cited above. “Similarly, the air cover will be used to track the movement of Naxal cadres, who frequently cross state borders. The government will review the strategy and then, if need be, the option of using limited fire power from air is always there, particularly if there is no damage to the civilian population. Maybe we will do this in a phased manner to see the response first,” said the home ministry official.
The issue of roping in the defence forces, both the Army and the Air Force, for limited use in anti-Maoist operations had come up during the tenure of former Union home minister P. Chidambaram. The move, however, was shelved, as the defence ministry was of the view that the task of dealing with Maoists should be left to paramilitary forces, such as Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and state police, while the Army should be involved in counter-terrorism operations in the Kashmir valley and the northeast.
More than 10,000 CRPF personnel, including those from the COBRA battalion, a special unit formed to fight the Naxals, are deployed in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. IAF choppers should only have a limited role, said Prakash Singh, a former director general of Border Security Force (BSF) and member of the Indian Police Foundation Institute, a think tank on security issues. “Choppers can provide backup in terms of providing information or rushing in reinforcements,” said Singh. “Using heavy fire power from the air is not required, as Naxals are not like hardened militants operating in Kashmir and are after all citizens of this country. So, while security forces should do their job, the state and centre should review the root cause for the problem and address those issues,” he said.
Cops Mistake Villagers for Maoists, Kill Them
BHUBANESWAR/BHAWANIPATNA:An anti-Maoist operation in Kalahandi district went horribly wrong when three villagers were killed allegedly during an exchange of fire between anti-Naxal forces and Maoists in Jugsaipatna reserve forests under Bhawanipatna Sadar police limits on Sunday. While police said the three were caught in the line of cross-fire, two teenagers injured in the firing alleged that the security personnel fired at them mistaking them for Maoists. The deceased were identified as Sukru Majhi, Jaya Shankar Naik and Jaya Majhi, all natives of Nisanguda village.
Naik is ward member of Panchkula. The two who escaped with minor injuries were admitted to district headquarter hospital at Bhawanipatna. Arjun Majhi and Pichu Majhi, both about 16 years of age, said they were out looking for their goats when they came under fire. Sources in the State Police said the Special Operation Group and District Voluntary Force (DVF) were combing Jugsaipatna forests after receiving specific intelligence inputs about Maoist movement. After sweeping one part of the forest, the units apparently sighted Maoists in another area where the exchange of fire started across a nullah in the deep forests. However, after the exchange of fire, the securitymen found three bodies which were later identified to be villagers.
Police claimed that four country-made guns were found from the spot and the locals could be out in the forest for hunting purposes. Kalahandi SP Brijesh Rai said the villagers are believed to have come in the line of fire during the encounter. “Illegal fire-arms, probably meant for hunting, were found from the spot,” he said. During subsequent combing in the area, the security forces found .303 ammunition which suggested movement of Maoists in the region. The bodies have been sent for post mortem.
Maoist action team sighted in Khanapur
The movement of Maoists in Adilabad district seems to have intensified what with a four member action team reportedly being sighted in Khanapur area about five days back. The extremists are also said to have pasted wall posters in Pata Yellapur and Nachan Yellapur villages in Khanapur mandal warning police informers of dire consequences. The Khanapur police have denied the development, which however were confirmed by independent sources.
According to sources, the action team is led by Maoist Adilabad Area Committee member Atram Shobhan alias Charles and has Chunchu Bakkanna, a naxalite who had surrendered himself to the police a few years ago, and drew the rehabilitation package too. Bakkanna is said to have joined the ranks with his former comrades about one year back. After a gap of a decade, the first killing of a civilian by extremists took place in Tiryani mandal on October 30, reportedly by a dalam comprising of 10 to 14 armed extremists.
3 iron ore-laden vehicles torched in Maoist arson
Maoists set ablaze three iron-ore laden vehicles in Saranda forest of West Singhbhum district, a senior police officer today said. Around 30 Maoists, flaunting fire arms, intercepted the mineral-laden dumpers and ordered the drivers to get down before they set the vehicles aflame near Kolbonga village in the Saranda forest range under Manohapur police station last night, Superintendent of Police Michael Raj S said. The mineral were being transported from Chiria mine owned by SAIL. On being informed of the incident, security forces rushed to the spot and launched a combing operation to trace the ultras.