Naxalism remains the biggest internal security challenge: PM

New Delhi:  Describing Naxalism as the biggest internal security challenge of the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said the Central government must help the states to deal with the menace.

"This is a problem which has acquired (such a) magnitude that cooperation between the Centre and states is absolutely necessary and the Central government must help states in every possible way," Singh said at a national press conference here.

He, however, said law and order was primarily the state government's responsibility.

"As far as I am concerned, I do recognise that law and order is primarily a state responsibility," he said.

Asked about Home Minister P Chidambaram's statement that he had a limited mandate in tackling the Maoists, Singh said the minister had already explained what he had meant by his statement on the issue.

"The Home Minister has explained what he meant by his having a limited mandate. These are issues which are strategy issues, hence will be discussed in appropriate forum of the Cabinet whenever an opportunity arises," he said.

On May 17, Chidambaram had said, "I took to the Cabinet committee case for a larger mandate; I was given a limited mandate. I will go back to the cabinet committee, I have already spoken to the Prime Minister...."

However, the next day, the Home Minister had clarified that it was the state governments which have the primary responsibility to tackle the menace of Naxalism and he was making the comment in that context.

The Prime Minister said his government did not underestimate the problem of Naxalism and there was no difference of opinion between the Central and the state governments on the issue of left-wing extremism.

"Naxalism remains the biggest internal security challenge facing our country. I have been saying this for the last three years. I have spoken to the Chief Ministers of the states many times on Naxal issue. The Chief Ministers understand that it is imperative to control Naxalism for the country's growth."

The Prime Minister admitted that the Maoists get fundings from various sources which they use for the procurement of arms and ammunition.

Asked whether there was any move to impose restrictions on the human rights activists who propagate the agenda of the Naxals, Singh said there was no such move as long as they do not indulge in violent activities.

"India is a democratic country and in democracy everyone has the right to express his views before the people. If the views don't propagate violence, there can't be any restriction on that," he said.

Singh said to exploit full benefit of economic reforms, it is important to control Naxalism and terrorist elements. "If we don't, it can affect our growth."

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