INTERVIEW| COVID pandemic hit anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh: DGP DM Awasthi

Express News Service

DM Awasthi, the Chhattisgarh Police head, who is considered to be an expert on Left Wing Extremism, has seen  LWE from close quarters for years as the Special Director General for anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh.

In an interview to The New Indian Express’s Sana Shakil, Awasthi said that COVID-19 did affect operations against the Naxals. He defended his force against the charges of going slow on Naxals and expressed hope that several successful operations against the extremists will be carried out in the near future.

Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel has talked about the possibility of talking to Maoists, if they surrender their weapons. Do you see any progress on that front?

The governments at the Centre and at the state have always expressed willingness to talk to the Naxals if they give up arms. The Naxals put up various conditions like imposition of ceasefire, and release of their cadre from jails.

Those conditions are not acceptable. One has to work within the ambit of the Constitution as the chief minister himself recently stated. Not just the governments but civil society members have also been trying to engage with the Naxals. The purpose is to ensure peace in the state. Nothing like it, if we achieve peace through non-violent means.

Official data show that the number of operations has gone down. According to the CRPF, the police have gone slow on operations. Your response.

There is no lack of coordination and cooperation between the police and the central forces. Local police cannot be accused of going slow on Naxal operations. There are reasons why fewer operations were carried out over the last two years.

We have to take into account the effects of the pandemic, which affected our force. COVID has been a major challenge. I do not believe in conducting operations for the sake of numbers. Operations should result in success, and we have maintained a great success rate. We are confident of more successful operations in the near future.

Is the government planning to introduce any new initiative to encourage more surrender?

We recently reviewed our state surrender policy under which we have provided jobs to many Naxals. We are going to strictly monitor the implementation of the policy. When more people get rehabilitated, more get encouraged to surrender. Chhattisgarh has a very attractive policy. We will ensure better enforcement of the policy.  

Have drone sightings increased in Naxal areas?

We have not noticed anything alarming on that front.