You attended the recent meeting of state DGPs and chief secretaries with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. What is the new government’s approach towards Naxalism?
He (Singh) said he won’t make any profound statement but said the war has to be fought unitedly and decisively by state and the Centre and that the Centre would provide any and every help states would need to tackle the Naxal problem. That’s very reassuring for the continuity of success in the war against Naxals. Importantly, of all affected states, Maharashtra and Orissa came in for special praise for their success in tackling Naxalism.
But what about Gadchiroli? Towards the end of a two-year reign of success there, Naxals seem to be raising their heads again with some small and big strikes, particularly during the impending transition (in the police department) when the old team is waiting for the new to take over?
You may be having that perception but our officers are still very much focused on their job and doing the operations with same enthusiasm and commitment. Sometimes, things can get a little out of balance in a war. That shouldn’t be construed as due to transitional blues.
But why is the new superintendent of police not being appointed? Aurangabad (Rural) SP Ishu Sandhu, whose name had been finalised, had even visited the district headquarters and held meeting with officials. But now it transpires that he has opted out.
The government is dealing with the matter not only for Gadchiroli but for all places. Something will materialise soon.
Another grey area is the urban activities of Naxals. Under the current legal regimen, it is very difficult to label anyone as Naxal merely because he is seen as espousing the ideology as was evident in case of Dalit writer Sudhir Dhawale, who was ordered to be released by a Gondia court for lack of evidence about his Naxal links. So, do you think you need a different legal provision to nail them, or how do you propose to tackle them?
We can’t stop anyone from following an ideology and it is not proper to do so also in a democracy. But wherever we have a ground to nail them for whatever they are doing to further the cause of the violent part of the ideology on the ground, we do act. And we have been able to nail some of them decisively in the past, like Vernon Gonsalves and Shridhar Shrinivasan, who were convicted. And more recently, we have been able to get G N Saibaba and others. We are very proud of the way we have worked and succeeded in Saibaba’s case.
But do you think you need a new legal framework to effectively tackle the urban movement of Naxals?
We actually know who are with Naxals and who are not. There are organisations that actually work for them. But it is very difficult to distinguished them from other organisations working for social justice since they function in a disguised manner. But what we know for sure, historically, is that Maoism hasn’t succeeded anywhere this way. As far as making an allowance for them to continue their work is concerned, we can’t stop anyone as long as we have nothing incriminating against them. Continuing to keep watch and catch them whenever there is evidence is the way to keep it under check.