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Indian Government Vows to Press Ahead with Government Offensive

  • Anjana Pasricha

The Indian government has vowed to press on with an offensive against Maoist rebels, after the guerrillas mounted their biggest attack on security forces, earlier this month. The Maoist rebels are considered as the biggest internal security threat to India.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram told parliament Monday that the government is determined to quell the Maoist rebellion in two to three years.

"A determined, organized armed liberation struggle cannot be allowed in this country. It strikes at the very root of democracy," Chidambaram said. "It strikes at the very root of our concept of nation, therefore it has to be squarely and fearlessly met."

His statement came nearly two weeks after Maoist rebels killed 76 paramilitary troops returning from a patrol in the dense jungles of Chattisgarh state. The bold attack raised questions about the effectiveness of a big government offensive mounted last year against the rebels in several eastern and central states.

Critics, including human rights groups, have also questioned whether a security operation would be effective in tackling the guerrillas, without tackling the lack of development in areas where they have gained influence.

They point out that there is virtually no government presence in these areas, which are among India's poorest.

Home Minister Chidambaram says the government will pay more attention to the development needs of areas where the Maoists - also known as Naxals - are active, so that it can win the confidence of local people.

"At the same time, we must show greater compassion, greater concern for the poor, greater dedication in taking development to the places where the Naxals seem to have some dominance," added Chidambaram.

The government says the rebels are deliberately targeting infrastructure to prevent development in many of these areas and have destroyed scores of school buildings, telephone towers and exchanges and power houses. Since 2008 the rebels have killed more than 400 people whom they describe as "police informers."

The government has said thousands of additional paramilitary forces will join the anti-Maoist operation. It has won wide support from opposition parties, which say that the rebellion must be crushed.

The rebels have spread their influence in 20 of India's 28 states and are considered a growing threat in a country battling several other insurgencies.