As they kill 10 policemen, Chidambaram calls Maoists cowards


Bhubaneswar/Lalgarh : Maoists Sunday blew up a bus in a remote part of Orissa killing 10 security personnel as Home Minister P. Chidambaram called the rebels cowards and warned the war against them would be prolonged.

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The rebels detonated a landmine, about 14 km from Baipariguda town, when a large number of Orissa’s Special Operation Group (SOG) personnel were going in three vehicles, Deputy Inspector General of Police Sanjeeb Panda told IANS.

One of the buses blew up, Panda said. “At least 10 security personnel were killed and three injured. The number of deaths may go up,” he said.

It was one of the worst Maoist attacks in recent times in Orissa, where the rebels are active in over half of the state’s 30 districts. Koraput district, about 500 km from Bhubaneswar, is considered their stronghold.

According to official figures, between 2001 and 2009, Maoists killed at least 145 policemen and 93 civilians in Orissa while 61 rebels were slain in the unending violence.

In neighbouring West Bengal, Chidambaram flew into Lalgarh, a Maoist stronghold, and urged people not to support the rebels, who have emerged as the biggest internal security threat to the country.

“They (Maoists) are cowards,” he said in West Midnapore district after a three-hour tour of an area where the guerrillas hold sway. “Why are they hiding in forests? If they really want development, they can just come forward for talks.”

The minister said the only condition the government had put forward for talks to take place is that the guerrillas should shun violence, which has left hundreds dead in recent years.

He said the record of the security forces against the Maoists in various parts of the country was mixed.

“There has been improvement in Chhattisgarh and certainly in Andhra Pradesh. There is concern over the situation in Orissa and Jharkhand. But it’s a long-drawn struggle. It will take two-three years’ time.”

He said he had mixed feelings about the situation in West Bengal, where the Maoist movement originated in 1967 before spreading to the rest of the country.

“The good point is that the central and state security forces have been able to arrest a number of people. The weak point is that the ‘Naxalites’ (Maoists) are still getting away by killing people.”

The minister, the spearhead of the government’s nationwide anti-Maoist Operation Greenhunt, said he had noted the weak points of the crackdown in Lalgarh.

Chidambaram arrived in a Border Security Force (BSF) helicopter from Kolkata and was driven in a bullet-proof car to the Lalgarh police station. He interacted with villagers and visited a primary health centre.

Later, he flew to Midnapore town for a luncheon meeting with police and other officials engaged in fighting the Maoists in West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura districts.

He said the villagers knew the Maoists cannot bring development.

“My appeal to them is if the government is ineffective, we will make the government effective. The solution does not lie in helping Naxalites. They should not extend material or moral support to them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Maoist guerrillas bombed and badly damaged a forest guest house in Jharkhand’s Latehar district early Sunday.

Around 20 to 25 Maoists rebels raided the vacant guest house at Matlong village, 140 km from Ranchi.

Police said a pamphlet was recovered from the site which claimed that the guerrillas targeted the guest house as it was used by security forces.