Need to strengthen strategy to tackle Maoists: PM

New Delhi, June 5 (IANS) Taking a strong stand against Maoist attacks like the May 25 strike against Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Wednesday the government's two-pronged strategy of sustained operations and addressing development issues must be strengthened.

Addressing the Chief Ministers' Conference on internal security here, Manmohan Singh said attacks like the May 25 one - in which at least 26 people, including senior Congress leaders Nand Kumar Patel and Mahendra Karma, were killed and many others injured - were "periodical setbacks" in the process to tackle left wing extremism.

"The meeting today has been called in the aftermath of brutal attack on Congress workers in Chhattisgarh. Such violence has no place in our democracy," said the prime minister.

He said the government's two-pronged strategy to tackle the Maoist problem - "proactive and sustained operations against Maoist extremists; and, addressing development and governance issues" needed to be strengthened.

These, the prime minister said, include strengthening the security apparatus, improving road connectivity in 34 most left wing extremist affected districts, relaxation of norms of various development schemes in the affected areas and the Integrated Action Plan for 82 selected tribal and backward districts.

"...major violent attacks by Naxalites like the recent one in Chhattisgarh are setbacks that have occurred periodically. The centre and states need to work together to eliminate such large-scale attacks," he said.

He said the meet could be used to find "some concrete measures to deal with the very grave threat of Naxalism".

"I must point out that the challenge of Naxalism has received our serious attention. We have worked on the development of the Naxal-affected areas. We have been successful to quite an extent," he added.

According to the prime minister, the government should ensure that people residing in left wing extremism affected areas are able to live in an environment of peace and security and derive full benefits of development efforts.

The prime minister urged all chief ministers to firmly deal with communal forces as communal harmony was critical for the growth and prosperity of the country.

"It is absolutely imperative that we deal very firmly with communal forces of all types," he said.

"Simultaneously, we also need to recognise and address the special needs of minorities and weaker sections of our society, particularly Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes."

He also called for "collective action" by states to put in place an institutional mechanism to ensure the safety and security of women and children.

"The issue which requires our collective action is that of crimes against women and children," he said.

"We also need to put in place institutional mechanisms to ensure the safety and security of women and children, particularly in the urban context," Manmohan Singh said.

Noting the "time has now come to view the challenges of terrorism, communal violence and left wing extremism in a holistic manner", Manmohan Singh urged people to act in national interest rising above narrow political and ideological divides.

"I would appeal to all political parties and all sections of society to work together to find effective ways and means of meeting these grave challenges," he said.

To build a broader national consensus on the strategy to tackle the challenge, the government has convened a meeting of all political parties on June 10, said the prime minister.

The chief ministers termed the May 25 Maoist strike in Chhattisgarh a "direct attack on democracy and freedom" and resolved "to use all legitimate means at their disposal to counter the activities of the Communist Party of India-Maoist."

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