India claims success against Maoist rebels
Indian officials search for Naxalites responsible for Friday's attack amid skepticism about rebel group's threat.
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But despite Friday's raid, doubts exist about the severity of the Maoist threat. The Indo-Asian News Service reports that Shivraj Patil, the union minister for home affairs in Mr. Singh's government, does not agree with Singh's assessment about the Naxalites' threat.
"[D]on't ask me to comment on my colleagues or what the prime minister said. You asked me for my opinion and I will give you my opinion," Patil told CNN-IBN's "Devil's Advocate" in an interview. ...
Patil's statement flies in the face of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's repeated assertions in many forums that Maoists posed the single biggest security challenge to India and even exhorted chief ministers at a recent conference to cripple their rebellion with all means at their command.
"Not a day passes without an incident of leftwing extremism taking place somewhere or the other. There also seems to be a consolidation of various groups with better coordination and strike capabilities," Manmohan Singh told chief ministers at a conclave on internal security in December last year.
The Kalinga Times also notes that there is some skepticism about reports on how many rebels have been killed. Some say that the state government has inflated its numbers "in an attempt to prove its efficiency and hide its 'failures.' "
What had created doubt over the government's claim about the killing the armed Maoists is that the policemen carrying out the combing operation had not retrieved the body of a single Maoist till Sunday evening.
The government's claim about the killing of Maoists was based on information which the police had collected from the villagers living in the fringe areas of the forests in Ganjam and Kandhamal districts.
Meanwhile, the Opposition parties have started mounting their attack on the [Orissa] Government for its `failure' to deal with the situation.
In addition, there are signs that the Maoist threat may be working its way to India's more urban west. The Times of India writes that police in Mumbai (Bombay) believe that the Naxalites are attempting to establish a base of operations there, and build support among urban dwellers.
According to police sources, Maoists have also articulated a new strategy to target urban centres in India, drawing up "guidelines for working in towns and cities", and for the revival of a mobilisation effort targeting students and the urban unemployed. In 2006, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil told the Lok Sabha that Maoists were planning to target important installations in major cities, including Mumbai.
But, there is no immediate threat. "There is no armed activity in Mumbai at the moment and the Maoists have kept their activities limited to propagating their ideology, setting up secret cells for frontal organisations and recruiting people,'' says a police sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The Maoists are trying to spread their movement among trade and labour unions, poor people and students. ...
While Mumbai may be safe for the moment, sources claim that the Maoists definitely have plans to take their war to other urban centres. The rebels, the sources add, have plans to strike in the industrial belts of Bhilai-Ranchi-Dhanbad-Calcutta and Mumbai-Pune-Surat-Ahmedabad to take their battle into the heart of India.