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Lalgarh operations on right track, says Chidambaram

Special Correspondent

SIVAGANGA: The Maoist-held territory in Lalgarh, West Bengal, will soon be brought under government control, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said on Monday.

Mr. Chidambaram was talking to journalists at Karaikudi.

He said the anti-Maoist operations, which entered the 11th day on Monday, were on the right track. He had advised the paramilitary forces to proceed with care, since the Maoists had planted the area with landmines. The personnel had to defuse the mines before they could advance.

According to him, it was not easy to restore the rule of law in a region, where government agencies and officials could not enter for 7-8 months. It was not possible to restore normality in seven days but he hoped the territory would be recovered from the Maoists soon. No paramilitary man had so far been killed in action but one had died of dehydration.

Vowing that the government would not allow the naxalites to regroup, Mr. Chidambaram said the insurgency was more than 10 years old. There would be some initial problems in quelling it.

Restoring rule of law

The Centre’s goal was to restore the rule of law in a few States where the Maoists had established their presence. A few areas in Jharkhand, Chhattisgargh and Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh were among the affected areas.

Asked about the possibilities of launching operations in these States, he said the police had first to be fully prepared. In West Bengal, they could not even enter Lalgarh until the paramilitary forces stepped in. The naxalite movement, which gathered strength in Tamil Nadu once, had been wiped out; only a few sympathisers were left.

Rejecting the claim by CPI(M) leaders that Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee was tacitly backing the Maoists in West Bengal, Mr. Chidambaram said even a Maoist leader had openly said she was not at all connected to the movement.

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