Indian Decade

Left Arm, Meet Right

The brutal massacre of 76 Indian police by Naxalite rebels raises some serious issues.

Indian TV channel CNN-IBN ran an interesting interview with Union Home Secretary G K Pillai yesterday, a day after an audacious and well-planned massacre of 76 police personnel (75 of them belonging to the central paramilitary force, Central Reserve Police Force) by the Naxals in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. This deadliest attack so far by the Maoists (the words ‘Maoists’, ‘Naxals’ and ‘Naxalites’ are inter-changeable here) raised questions about the state of intelligence as well as the strategy being used against the militant group. Pillai, however, will have none of this talk of ‘intelligence failure’.

Sample his response to a question on whether the Dantewada massacre took place because of intelligence failures: ‘There is no question of intelligence failure. This was a team which went out based on specific intelligence inputs two days ago. They went looking for the Maoists this morning, but they got ambushed in the jungle. This is not an intelligence failure because we don’t have intelligence inside the jungles.’

In response to another question on whether it was an intelligence or operational failure, as the CRPF personnel apparently walked right into a trap, and whether the Naxals tipped off, Pillai responded: ‘No. I think they had already gone, I don’t think any villagers were there. My own hunch would be that the Maoists were already sitting there when they (the forces) went. They possibly laid a trap on their way back. They should have been careful to avoid doing that. But we have to wait for the full report and investigation by the people on the spot.’

Against the backdrop of this brutal massacre, Pillai talked of the government’s intention to hit back at the Naxals with ‘vigour’ and said: ‘We will start to show the success in the days to come. We have restored civil administration in about 5000 kilometres square in the last four months. Both in Rajnandgaon and Kanker district, we are seeing success. Dantewada is an area where it is not in the second stage. We will be coming to Dantewada a little later.’ He also disclosed that the government has inducted 21 additional battalions (some 21,000 personnel) for anti-Naxal operation ‘Green Hunt’.

However, questioned if the Ministry of Home Affairs had asked for air firepower, Pillai said ‘No such request has been made and we believe that we can handle the Maoists with helicopters only for evacuation and mobilisation.’ But his boss in the Home Ministry, P Chidambaram, indicated to the contrary during his visit to Chhatisgarh the same day. In a significant departure, Chidambaram said while the government had refrained from using airpower against Maoists, the situation could change. ‘At present there is no mandate to use the air force or any aircraft. But, if necessary, we will have to revisit the mandate to make some changes.’ Today, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government had not taken any view on using airpower against the Maoists.

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For those wishing to access the complete transcript of CNN-IBN’s interview with Pillai can click here.