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Indian Official Says Maoist Threst Underestimated by Government


A top Indian official says the government underestimated the threat posed by Maoist rebels, and is drawing up plans to repel the left wing insurgents. In the last month the guerrillas were blamed for daring attacks targeting security forces.

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram told Parliament Wednesday that the government failed to correctly assess the growing threat posed by Maoist rebels.

"I think we underestimated the challenge," Chidambaram said. "In the meanwhile the left wing extremists have extended their areas of influence, they have entrenched themselves. Today they pose a very grave challenge to the state."

The Home Minister's statement came days after suspected Maoist rebels killed more than 30 policemen in eastern Chattisgarh state. It was one of the most brazen attacks blamed on the guerrillas. Police say the rebels first targeted a security patrol and then waited for reinforcements to rush in before mounting a huge attack.

The attack in Chattisgarh came as security forces were trying to establish control over a group of villages which had been seized by the guerrillas in West Bengal state.

Home Minister Chidambaram says the government is "preparing to take on the challenge" posed by the rebels to the country's security. He says the government will convene a meeting next month of states where the rebels are active. Chidambaram urged lawmakers not to ignore the danger they pose.

"Details cannot be disclosed. Plans are being drawn up... But we must all recognize, all sections of the house must recognize, we must remain a democratic republic ruled by law, we must collectively rise up and face the challenge of left wing extremism," Chidambaram said.

Maoist rebels, whose numbers are estimated at 10,000 to 20,000, have established bases in remote areas in eastern India. Poverty is still widespread in these areas, which have remained untouched by the country's recent economic boom.

The rising influence of the left wing insurgents is also blamed on poor governance in remote areas. Analysts say the rebels often gain influence by intimidation in areas where the state apparatus is virtually non existent.

Security analysts have long stressed the need for more concerted action against the guerrillas, and better training and communication facilities for security forces deployed to tackle them.

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