Fight against Maoists is failing, says ManmohanSeptember 19, 2009
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told India’s police chiefs on Tuesday that a campaign against Maoist militants had failed to produce results and that militant violence was on the rise in many states. Singh’s comment is the clearest signal yet of the government’s concern at an insurgency that has virtually put a vast swathe of the countryside rich in minerals out of official control, hurting potential business worth billions of dollars.
Though the economic impact of the insurgency remains limited, with the militants largely operating out of jungle hideouts, the insurgency and the sense that it is worsening adds to risks for companies mulling investments. ‘I would like to state frankly that we have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace,’ Singh said, underscoring concern over what he has described as the biggest home-grown threat to India’s internal security.
‘It is a matter of concern that despite our efforts the level of violence in the affected states continues to rise.’
The militants have increased attacks on railways, power and telecommunication networks to halt economic development, Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said.
In June, bauxite production at state-run National Aluminium Co Ltd (NALCO) in eastern Orissa state fell by 20 percent after an April attack by Maoists in one of their mines.
Support for Maoists?
The Maoist insurgency began four decades ago championing the cause of poor peasants in the east, but has now spread to about 20 of India’s 29 states, with the militants targeting police and government property in hit-and-run attacks.
India’s cities and bigger towns are largely free of the violence, but Singh warned that the militants had managed to retain support among a cross section of society. ‘Despite its sanguinary nature, the movement manages to retain the support of a section of the tribal communities and the poorest of the poor in many affected areas,’ he said.‘It has influence among certain sections of the civil society, the intelligentsia…all this adds to the complexity of the problem.’
India’s campaign to subdue the militants has been limited as police are often outnumbered and use outdated weapons against insurgents skilled in jungle warfare and well-equipped with rocket launchers, automatic rifles and explosives. ‘As I have stated before dealing with left-wing extremism requires a nuanced strategy, a holistic approach,’ he said. ‘It can not be treated solely as a law and order problem.’