//Maoists allege govt backing civilian paramilitaries

Maoists allege govt backing civilian paramilitaries

Web posted at: 3/13/2006 1:20:43 Source ::: AFP

NEW DELHI: Indian Maoists who killed 28 people last month in a landmine blast said yesterday the victims were government-backed paramilitaries and not civilians.

London-based rights group Amnesty International on Friday expressed “grave concern about the recent escalation of violence” in the eastern state of Chhatisgarh, where the massacre took place.

The rebels on February 28 blew up a truck carrying people who were taking part in an anti-Maoist campaign called “Salwa Judum” (Purification Campaign).

In an e-mailed statement they said the group had been armed by the government to attack Maoist sympathisers in rural areas.

“Our attack was targeted entirely against the Salwa Judum activists and the special police forces who have been running amok burning entire villages considered to be the strongholds of the Maoists,” said the statement from Communist Party of India (Maoist) secretary general, Ganapati.

The outfit is the main Maoist rebel group in India. The government estimates that 9,300 Maoists are fighting for economic and social rights for landless farmers and tribals in rural areas of eastern and central India, including the state of Chhatisgarh.

The statement expressed “heartfelt regrets” for what it called the “two or three civilians” among the dead.

But Ganapati said the attack was aimed at countering a paramilitary campaign against the rebels funded by landlords and major companies in the mineral-rich state.

He said security forces and Salwa Judum members had tortured and beheaded suspected Maoist supporters. Amnesty also said the state government supported the movement to intimidate Maoist sympathisers and supporters.

“While those participating in the Salwa Judum appear to be targeted by the Maoists, those unwilling to do so risked attacks by the state police,” the rights group said.

Security analyst Ajai Sahni of the Institute for Conflict Management termed the anti-Maoist campaign “totally irresponsible” on the part of the government, saying it was exposing the members to rebel violence.