PC assures restraint in Kashmir, warns against `saffron terror`

P Chidambaram cautioned against various forms of extremism, including "saffron terrorism".

New Delhi: Home Minister P. Chidambaram Wednesday cautioned against various forms of extremism, including "saffron terrorism", and revealed that in Jammu and Kashmir the security forces had been "instructed to act with great restraint".

Opening the annual police chiefs` conference here, the home minister also said Maoists have not given a credible response to the government`s offer for talks and the fight against them would be a long drawn one.

Chidambaram mooted the idea of transferring central funds for modernising police forces directly to their chiefs instead of to the state governments.

"I wish to caution you that there is no let-up in attempts to radicalise young men and women in India," Chidambaram said in his inaugural address to the 45th meet of the chiefs of state police and central paramilitary forces here.

Referring to Hindu extremist outfits, he said: "There is this recently uncovered phenomena of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts of the past."

"My advice to you is that we must remain ever vigilant and continue to build at the central and state levels our capacity in counter-terrorism," he said.

He observed that "save for one incident, the last 21 months have been remarkably free of any terrorist attack. The attack on the German Bakery in Pune was indeed a blot. I sincerely hope that the suspects will be apprehended as soon as possible."

Referring to the continuing turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir, Chidambaram said: "We are concerned that we have not been able to stop the vicious cycle in which the state is caught. The security forces, however, have been instructed to act with great restraint."

He said: "I am afraid Jammu and Kashmir is now caught in a vicious cycle of stone pelting, lathicharge, teargassing and firing, leading to casualties and resulting in more stone pelting."

"It is, however, my hope that in the next few days, we would be able to find that elusive starting point from where we could reach out to the protesters, reassure them of their rights and dignity, restore peace and order, redeem the promises made and restart the process of dialogue that will lead to a solution," he said.

On the Maoist insurgency, he said the rebels had refused to respond directly to the central government`s call to abjure violence and begin talks.

"We have called upon the Communist Party of India-Maoist to abjure violence and come for talks. I regret to say there has been no direct and credible response to our offers of talks," he added.

"We made it clear (to the states in November 2009) that it would take several years before we are able to contain the CPI-Maoist and roll back their offensive," said Chidambaram.

"I think the people of India understand -- even if the critics do not -- that the conflict will be a long drawn one, that patience is the key, that mistakes will be made and the security forces need material and moral support to carry out their tasks," he said.

Mulling the transfer of police modernisation funds directly to the state police chiefs, bypassing state governments, Chidambaram said: "Should we try to put in place a system for transfer of funds under the MPF (Modernisation of Police Forces) schemes directly to director general of police of the state?"

He mooted the idea exactly a month after various state chief ministers, at the 54th National Development Council (NDC) meet July 25, resented the central government`s growing tendency to transfer funds directly to various agencies of the states, bypassing their legislatures.

"Is your state making the required 25 percent contribution to the MPF Scheme?" he asked the state police chiefs. "Moreover, do you think, you have been delegated adequate financial powers to spend the money allocated to your departments?"

Chidambaram`s remarks on "saffron terrorism" drew prompt reactions from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which called it an attempt to divert attention from the government`s failures.

BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: "The government, led by Sonia Gandhi (United Progressive Alliance chairperson), Manmohan Singh (prime minister) and Chidambaram, has messed up on every front, whether it is international dialogue, disturbances in Kashmir, Leftwing extremism or the Commonwealth Games. They are now trying to divert the attention of the nation," he alleged.

Stating that terrorism was not linked to any religion, the BJP accused the government of targeting Hindus.

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