Naxalite test for BSF, Centre tightens scan

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  • Published 18.06.09
Paramilitary forces take position. (Sanat Kumar Sinha)

New Delhi, June 18: The Centre has allowed the Border Security Force to be used against Naxalites for the first time in Lalgarh, but will scan the way central troops are used in the operation.

Having provided forces with the rider that Bengal police will go in first, the Union home ministry has written to Writers’ Buildings that it expects a report on how the paramilitary is being utilised.

Union home secretary Madhukar Gupta is said to have made the point when he spoke to Bengal chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti today. The state was told that the onus of effectively using such forces lay with it.

The move to bring in the BSF, in some ways similar to the army including its training in light artillery, is being seen as a sign of the seriousness with which the home ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office are treating the situation in Lalgarh.

Last month, home minister P. Chidambaram had said “if need arises”, the BSF could be used against Naxalites.

The BSF’s responsibilities include guarding the Bangladesh and Pakistan borders, besides election duties. Yesterday, Chidambaram said the BSF’s experience in Kashmir could be used in countering Naxalites.

If successful, Lalgarh could turn out to be a test case for using the BSF in anti-Naxalite operations in affected states like Chhattisgarh.

Seven companies of the BSF — one company is 120-125 personnel — and 16 of the CRPF have been sent for Lalgarh. Other than that, there are four units (around 120 personnel) of the elite Cobra force, created on the lines of the anti-Naxalite Grey Hounds of Andhra Pradesh.

The seven BSF companies have been drawn from reserves posted in Bengal but not actively deployed on the Bangladesh border.

For now, the troops are on standby near Lalgarh but BSF sources said they might soon conduct operations alongside the state police.

Home ministry officials refused comment on the way central forces had been used so far but there was a feeling that Bengal police were “slow” to move.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram had yesterday made it clear that the main responsibility in dealing with the situation in Lalgarh lay with the state police.

Bengal home secretary Ardhendu Sen spoke today to the additional secretary (Naxalite management) in the Union home ministry, D.R.S. Chaudhary.