Bhubaneswar/Lalgarh: Ten policemen were killed by Maoists in Orissa on Sunday, but Union home minister P. Chidambaram ruled out a role for the military in the fight against the left-wing rebels.
The security personnel died when their patrol car hit a landmine planted by the rebels in the forested Koraput district, about 550km from state capital Bhubaneswar, officials said.
“We are confirming 10 deaths, but it (the toll) may go up,” senior police officer Sanjeeb Panda said.
Maoists have stepped up attacks in parts of eastern India in response to an offensive that began late last year, which officials claim has weakened the decades-old movement.
Red alert: P. Chidambaram on Sunday said only the state police and paramilitary forces will be deployed to fight the Naxals. PTI
Chidambaram visited Lalgarh, a Maoist bastion in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district, to review the anti-Maoist drive.
“No, we are not contemplating military action against Naxals (Maoists), and state police, state armed police and paramilitary forces alone will be deployed to fight the Naxals,” he said after an hour-long meeting with top police and administrative officials.
Chidambaram met West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Kolkata on Saturday night.
“I told him the buck stops with you and he must ensure that the buck stops with the SP (superintendent of police) or the officer in-charge,” Chidambaram told reporters about his meeting with Bhattacherjee.
The minister called Maoists “cowards” for hiding in the forests, and slammed them for using the tribal group People’s Committee against Police Atrocities, or PCPA, as a front organization.
PCPA called a 24-hour shutdown in West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura districts to protest against Chidambaram’s visit.
The visit followed recurring clashes between workers of Chidambaram’s Congress party, West Bengal’s ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) and the state’s main opposition, the Trinamool Congress, in several parts of the state, which have left many dead or injured.
“I was very unhappy with what happened at Mangalkot in Burdwan district,” he said, referring to a recent clash. “There are different perceptions. I have my own. I shared my perceptions with the chief minister...I wanted inter-party clashes to end.”
Bhattacharjee, Chidambaram added, had himself identified at least eight precincts in different districts that had witnessed such clashes, including Mangalkot, Nanoor, Canning, Khejuri and Khanakul.