Antony doesn’t rule out using army against Maoists

New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) Defence Minister A.K. Antony Saturday met Indian Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh to discuss the possibility of using the army against the Maoist guerrillas – a possibility that Antony later didn’t rule out.

A well informed source told IANS that Singh and Antony discussed the role of the army in ‘assisting’ paramilitary troopers in the anti-Maoist operations in east and central India, where the Left-wing extremists have grown in strength striking at security forces and civilians with impunity.

Antony later told reporters that the government will ‘carefully’ examine the issue but didn’t rule it out.

‘You cannot have a debate about it in public. We will take the decision after carefully studying it,’ the defence minister said.

The meeting between the army chief and the minister comes a day after a Maoist sabotage caused a train accident in West Bengal leaving more than 130 people dead. This was the biggest attack on civilians by the rebels after they slaughtered 76 security men in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district April 6.

Sources said the army is almost ready to move in into Maoist dominated areas and is waiting for the political decision about it.

‘The force is finalizing its plans to meet any contingency. They may have to step in,’ an official told IANS.

The army is presently giving training, surveillance and logistical support to the central paramilitary troopers in their ongoing anti-Maoist operations.

It is establishing two sub-area headquarters at Ambarda on the Orissa-West Bengal border and Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh.

Though the sub-area headquarters would be static they are likely to help if army units are deployed in the region to fight the rebels along with the police and paramilitary forces.

Antony had earlier categorically ruled out deploying the army in a direct role in the operations.

The army has already trained around 47,000 police and paramilitary personnel for counter-insurgency battle.