Naxal violence still too high for govt comfort

FPSecurity forces with a victimís body in Chhattisgarh. express

Security operations and development initiatives by the government may have caused an ebb in Naxal violence since the peak of 2010, but last week's attack on a Congress convoy in Chhattisgarh has come as a wake-up call that the threat is far from over.

The decline notwithstanding, Maoists have still been taking a heavy toll on their targets, killing 865 civilians and 299 security personnel from 2011 to May 15, 2013. Over the same period, Naxals have suffered fewer casualties (216) than they have caused, though over 4,000 of them have been arrested and 959 have surrendered.

A few weeks before the Chhattisgarh attack, the home ministry's Naxal management division had assessed its figures for 2012-13 and noted an overall decline in Naxal violence and fewer causalities among security personnel, for which it credited specialised forces and unmanned aerial surveillance.

After the latest strike, a government officer admitted, "It is also clear that Maoists have changed their tactics, because of which intelligence agencies and security forces were caught unawares."

Former Chhattisgarh DGP Vishwaranjan, who was behind several operations against Maoists, stresses the use of force. "The development initiatives of the government will have no results unless the Maoists are wiped out completely. They will continue to hamper these initiatives by destroying roads and infrastructure."

In the past five years, Naxals have targeted elements of basic infrastructure ó railway lines, telephone exchange, school buildings, transmission poles ó more frequently than they have targeted mines and power plants. All economic targets combined, the number struck rose from 182 in 2008 to 214 in 2012. Most of these strikes have taken place in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar.

In 2005 as well as 2010, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressed the government's concerns. "I do recognise that although law and order is primarily the states' responsibility, this is a problem which has acquired a magnitude that cooperation between states and Centre is absolutely necessary and that the central government must help the states in every possible way. If we don't, it can affect our growth," Singh said in a statement on May 24, 2010.

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