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India points to rise of Hindu ‘saffron terror’ risk

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NEW DELHI – India’s home minister warned on Wednesday that Hindu extremists posed an increasing risk to national security, dubbing the threat as “saffron terror”.

Chidambaram also warned that the government faced a lengthy battle to defeat India’s worsening Maoist insurgency

The colour saffron is associated with Hindu nationalism in India, and some right-wing groups have been linked to militant attacks in the north and west of the country.

However, most major recent attacks, including those in Mumbai in 2008 during which 166 people died, have been blamed on Islamists.

“We have recently uncovered a new phenomenon of ‘saffron terror’ and I ask you to be vigilant,” P. Chidambaram told an annual meeting of police chiefs in New Delhi.

Hardline regional parties like the Shiv Sena, which is based in Mumbai, vow to defend Hindu rights in India, but deny they are behind any violent militant activity.

Chidambaram also warned that the government faced a lengthy battle to defeat India’s worsening Maoist insurgency in eastern and central states.

Maoist attacks have risen with scores of police and soldiers killed in ambushes since Chidambaram launched a nationwide security offensive last year.

“The people of India understand that the conflict will be a long-drawn one, that patience is the key, that mistakes will be made and that the security forces need material and moral support,” he said.

India has almost doubled its homeland security budget to 405 billion rupees (nine billion dollars) since 2008-2009, he added.

The Maoist rebels say they fight against federal and state authorities on behalf of landless tribal groups and poor farmers who have been left behind by economic development.

No evidence of China supporting Maoists: Chidambaram

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The Times of India

NEW DELHI: Government on Wednesday said it has no evidence of China lending support to Maoists.

“….we have no evidence on reports that China is lending support to them (Maoists),” home ministerP Chidambaram informed the Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.

He said the government also did not have any information on Maoists receiving any support from anti-national forces.

“On whether anti-national or international forces are supporting Maoists, we have no evidence of any covert support to them. There was one unconfirmed report about a contact between a Nepalese organisation and Maoists,” he said.

Chidambaram, however, said the government was keeping a watch and would take action with the help of friendly countries if such reports are confirmed.

He said Maoists are generating funds internally through extortion and by looting banks. They are also smuggling arms through borders along Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“But, there is no proof of Maoists getting money from international agencies,” he said.

To a supplementary that Maoists carry out money laundering and even Interpol and audit firm KPMG have given estimates that it has reached large proportions, Chidambaram said though the issue of money laundering is dealt with by the finance ministry, “these estimates are exaggerated. I don’t believe.”

To another query, he said circulation of fake currency is a separate issue and not only the Indian rupee, but all major currencies of the world are facing this problem. “We have caught consignments of fake currencies on various occasions.”

The home minister said there is a mechanism to monitor use of money under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 1976.

“No banned organisation or their front organisations are given permission to receive foreign contribution under the Act. Central intelligence and security agencies work in close cooperation with their counterparts in states to gather information regarding this matter,” he said.

He informed the House that the Act is proposed to be replaced by a new one which will incorporate provisions for greater transparency and accountability. The regulatory mechanism would also get further strengthened, he said.

The minister said government has taken action in 100 cases where the Act was violated.

India has massive police shortage: minister

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RAIPUR, India – India’s home minister on Wednesday said at least 335,000 police posts were vacant across the country as the government struggles to tackle a spreading Maoist insurgency.

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram (L) leaves his office in New Delhi in May, 2010. Chidambaram on Wednesday …

P. Chidambaram told a security conference held in one area hit by deadly Maoist activity that India even lacked police stations in some regions that were in the grip of raging left-wing violence.

“And there are police stations where men do not hold any weapons for the fear of their weapons being looted,” he said in Raipur, capital of Chhattisgarh state where Maoists massacred 76 policemen in an ambush in April.

Chidambaram has taken a hard stand against the outlawed guerrillas, pumping tens of millions of dollars into police programmes to re-arm men battling the rebels.

“The total number of sanctioned posts in all ranks is about 2.1 million and of these about 335,000 posts are vacant,” said the minister, who is under pressure to deploy the armed forces to battle the Maoists.

The comments came a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was determined to enforce “the writ of the state” in areas under Maoist control.

Last week the rebels were blamed for derailing a passenger train, causing a crash that left 151 people dead.

Chidambaram launched a coordinated offensive against the Maoists in November last year, involving more than 60,000 paramilitary and state police.

The operation has produced few tangible results and Maoist attacks have stepped up.

The Maoist rebellion began in West Bengal in 1967 and has since spread to 20 of India’s 29 states.