Defending his decision to release 26 women "agitators" in exchange for a police officer abducted by Maoists, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee described it as an exception and warned the extremists that they would be taught a lesson in future.
"If they learn this lesson, then they are wrong. I will teach them a lesson in future," he told media-persons on Saturday when asked whether the Maoists would be emboldened by the move and carry out such abductions again.
He said the decision to release 26 women prisoners from jail was "an exception and not part of our overall policy of getting rid of Maoists. We will carry on with our mission objective."There is no illusion about it because Maoists are engaged in murders, looting, extortion and all kinds of criminal activities."
The Chief Minister said the women were released on bail as they were charged with cases like digging up roads, felling trees and carrying out agitation programmes. Asked whether the decision was a "surrender" of state power to the Maoists, he said "they would have been released on bail in any case within 10-15 days or a month. That is not a surrender."
To a question whether the Left extremists would be emboldened by the release of the women agitators, he said "it is a correct issue. When we decided to respond, we discussed this point. This is something exceptional."
"We have to be very careful that such a situation does not recur. And the Maoists should also be clear in their minds that they will not get such a response in future. We will ensure that things are not repeated," Bhattacharjee said.
Referring to his meeting with Home Minister P Chidambaram last evening, he said he had briefed the Minister about the facts and circumstances of the incident. "I had a very fruitful discussion about the latest developments and sought cooperation from the Centre. The Home Minister assured me of full cooperation and all the help I needed."
Asked whether the killing of over 100 CPI-M cadres and regular Maoist attacks would demoralise them, he said "I don't think so.... It will not discourage the rank and file. The Maoists are attacking their political opponents, particularly the CPI-M and other Left party workers."At the same time, "it is also not true that they are not attacking policemen. They have killed them before and now two of them have been killed (in Sankrail police station)."
Regarding a senior state government officer's comments that the deal for exchanging the women and the police officer was due to "soft" character of the state unlike Israel and equating it with Kandahar hijack and Rubaiyya Sayeed episodes, the Chief Minister said "he should not have said this. It may be his personal opinion and not the official reaction of the state government."