At a time when there are divisions within the government on whether or not to use the Army against the Maoists, a key former General in the Eastern Command told NDTV that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had indeed sent in the Army to crush the original Naxal uprising in West Bengal in the late 60s.
Lt General (Retd) J F R Jacob also added that Para-Commandos were also used against the Naxals in the 60s and 70s.
"In 1969 in the month of October, General Manekshaw and secretary Govind Narain came to Calcutta to see me. We had a meeting and Manekshaw told me that the government had decided that the Army would be used to break the Naxals and it is the order of Mrs Gandhi. She had directed that the Army be used to break the Naxals." he said.
"I told Manekshaw that I need more troops. We had 20th Division in the Naxal areas but nothing south of the Ganga. He said, 'How much troops do you need?' I said I at least need two divisions. So he said Jake I will be good to you. I will not only give you two more divisions but I will give you 50 para-brigade as well. I said give me something in writing. He said nothing in writing. Then Govind Narain turned up and said no publicity and no records. There was no disturbed area act enforced, no AFSPA enforced. We just operated within the law. I would presume you would call it aid of civil power and we had no protection," he added.
The Cabinet Committee on Security met on Thursday on the Home Ministry's proposal for greater assistance from the Army in tackling the Naxals but ended in a stalemate. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired the key meeting.
The Army leadership, however, continues to remain wary of getting embroiled in the Naxal areas, one reason why the Ministry of Home Affairs has reportedly refrained from seeking Army's direct deployment in the counter-Naxalite strategy.
Instead, the Army has offered post brigadier-level officers in Naxal-affected states as advisers and part of the Unified Command.