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Needed SIT to probe Naxal attack on Congress leaders: Bhupesh Baghel

In his first interview after becoming CM, Baghel talks about the need for an SIT probe in the five-year-old Naxal attack on Congress leaders and a host of other issues.

, ET Bureau|
Dec 19, 2018, 08.18 AM IST
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Congress would work for the four symbols of Chhattisgarh — rivulets, livestock, domestic dump and farming, says Baghel.
The BJP government did not ensure a fair investigation in Jhiram Ghati Naxal attack which wiped out the state Congress leadership in 2013, newly appointed Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel has said. In his first interview after becoming the CM, 57-year-old Baghel speaks to Nidhi Sharma on why an special investigation team (SIT) probe in the five-year-old attack was necessary, why prohibition promised in Congress manifesto would not be immediately implemented and how his government would ensure more than farm loan waiver. Excerpts:

Along with the farm loan waiver, you have announced an SIT to probe the 2013 Naxal attack. Why?
The massacre was a political conspiracy but BJP government did not investigate it properly. In fact, NIA has filed a closure report in the court. There are several unanswered questions like who was the mastermind of that attack, why no official was held responsible for the lapses and why no interrogation of Naxal leaders who surrendered has taken place?

What do you suspect?
Naxals don’t benefit from such killings. They don’t choose and kill. During that massacre, 29 persons were killed. They kept asking the names of the people – who is Nand Kumar Patel. Are you Dinesh Patel. They kept killing till they found Nand Kumar Patel, Dinesh Patel and Mahendra Karma. What is this? It is supari killing. We need to get to the bottom of this political conspiracy.

Do you think an SIT would be able to find anything now?
Officials responsible for removing the security cover can easily be found. Surrendered Naxal leaders can be interrogated. SIT would ensure a free and fair probe.

Prohibition was a major poll promise. When would you announce it?
Prohibition would not be announced immediately like the farm loan waiver. We need to study the whole process. We do not want to repeat the mistakes of other states. It has been found that prohibition could lead to increase in drug abuse and even smuggling of illicit liquor. We would not want to encourage another evil. At the same time, the largely tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh has Scheduled V areas where country liquor is allowed.

How do you plan to address Naxalism?
It cannot be with guns. We have seen how Naxalism has spread to 15 districts. We would need to take the development approach. First, it has to be talks – we need to talk to tribals, journalists, social rights activists and all other stakeholders.

Congress had a popular slogan: “Chhattisgarh ke chaar chinhaari – Narwa, Garuwa, Ghurva, Baari”. Is it still on the anvil?
Farm loan waiver was an immediate promise but this is our major commitment. Roughly translated it means Congress would work for the four symbols of Chhattisgarh — rivulets, livestock, domestic dump and farming. This is our mantra for complete turnaround of farming. I belong to the farming community and I am aware that we need to invest in this to make the farmer self-sufficient.

During polls, you had made an issue of the way Raman Singh government had used the corpus under District Mineral Foundation. How would things change now?
Our first Assembly session in January-February would address this issue. Raman Singh government had actively worked towards making the collector very powerful. We would study the guidelines and bring about amendments to ensure the project affected people, especially tribals, are benefitted. DMF funds were being used in urban projects. This would stop immediately.

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