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Last Updated: May 17, 2007 - 8:46:52 AM
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Armed youth needed for war on Maoists: Salwa Judum leader
Apr 10, 2007 - 8:41:52 AM
Police officials say that about 4,000 Maoists carrying AK-47s and SLRs are active in the southern tip of Chhattisgarh and are backed by another 35,000-40,000 second rank Maoists with guns, bows and arrows and sharp-edged weapons.

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[RxPG] Raipur, April 10 - Mahendra Karma, Chhattisgarh's leading tribal politician and the man responsible for a civil militia movement against the Maoists, says that more youth should be recruited and trained to handle sophisticated weapons in order to uproot the guerrillas.

'If the government wants to finish off the Maoists and dismantle their decades-old terror network, more and more local youths should be recruited as special police officers - because only locals know everything about the guerrillas, their intelligence gathering system and terror plans,' the Congress leader said.

Karma, who has Z plus security due to threats from Maoists, is considered the main brain behind the launch of the Salwa Judum - in June 2005 in the state's southern Bastar region. Around 50,000 people in the region have been rendered homeless due to the continuing violence.

Karma, who is the leader of the opposition in Chhattisgarh's state assembly, represents the Dantewada assembly seat, the district worst hit by Maoist insurgency in India. The rebels have even set up a parallel government in some interior areas of Chhattisgarh.

'Salwa Judum is a mass movement and no one can stop that. It has eroded the Maoists' base and their long affiliation with innocent local people. Rebels are now killing civilians and SPOs in their desperation to maintain their existence,' Karma told IANS in an interview.

'Maoists are robbers and plunderers and such people never achieve success in the long term,' he remarked.

Karma underlined the importance of recruiting more people in the wake of human rights groups and intellectuals asking the state government to not endanger the lives of civilians by sponsoring the Salwa Judum and putting young men in the line of fire as SPOs.

SPOs have been the main target of Maoists in recent months. On March 15, the rebels carried out one of the deadliest attacks ever on a police camp and 39 SPOs were among the 55 cops massacred.

The Chhattisgarh government has recruited about 5,000 SPOs on a monthly remuneration of a meagre Rs.1,500. They belong to local tribes and act as informers and assistants to the main police force. A few have been given weapons and training but most are armed only with bows and arrows.

'SPOs hold the key to the police force's success against the Maoists. The government should recruit more locals as SPOs but they must be given rigorous defence training and be capable of operating AK-47s and self-loading rifles -,' Karma stressed.

This is essential 'if the government wants to score over the Maoists in battles in the interior forested areas of Chhattisgarh'.

Police officials say that about 4,000 Maoists carrying AK-47s and SLRs are active in the southern tip of Chhattisgarh and are backed by another 35,000-40,000 second rank Maoists with guns, bows and arrows and sharp-edged weapons.

According to a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights -, nearly 750 people in India have lost their lives in Maoist violence in 2006 alone with 48 percent of the casualties in Chhattisgarh.

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