You were tough against the Naxals but your tenure also saw a rise in Naxalism.
Arjun Munda, Madhu Koda and Shibu Soren who followed me as CM all played a negative role and diluted the fight against the Naxals. I invited the Naxals to join the mainstream but also punished those who refused the offer. Many Naxals surrendered in the Bokaro and Giridih districts. There were many encounters and Naxals were on the run then. I also started development activities. In the worst affected districts of Palamu and Chatra, the farmers came back to their farms.
So why has Naxal activity shot up?
Because the politicians are all scared of the Naxals. Everyone demands that [Parliament attack convict] Afzal Guru be hanged but no one dares to speak against the Naxals. I had arrested many Naxals under POTA. But the then Union Home Minister LK Advani called me and said, “Why are you doing this? I have to answer for it in Parliament.”
Do you think the CRPF killed Naxals or innocent villagers on April 15 in Latehar?
See, often the Naxals threaten to kill innocent villagers if they don’t do their bidding. In my own village in the Giridih district, the Naxals put pressure on villagers to not sell their timber to the neighbouring villages of Bihar. I asked the police also to threaten the villagers to sell timber in Bihar, so that one threat cancels out the other. What does one do? How else does one counter the fear created by the Naxals? But, yes, as for the April 15 incident, the government must order an inquiry, as the villagers have demanded.
Does the train hijack mean the government has lost out to the Naxals?
Jharkhand is a small state and the government has enough muscle.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram says the Naxals are bandits bereft of ideology.
So who is ideologically driven in all these big parties? Even amongst the Naxals, few are ideologically driven and only two or three are ideologically inspired and they use people who’ve gone astray to do their bidding.
It is also alleged that the Naxals take hefty cuts from public funds.
Obviously, there is no straight way, so they take the way of “levy”.
I had arrested many Naxals under Pota. But Advani called me and said,‘why are you doing this?’
Do you see a role for the Centre in fighting the Maoist insurgency?
The Centre’s role can only be limited. They can give money. But only the state police and administration can bring a resolution.
Do you think Naxalism can be eliminated in Jharkhand?
Positively. It will take two years to eliminate it, provided the governments of Bihar and Jharkhand work in unison.