Saturday, February 27, 2010
Bankura : On the day when Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee left Purulia after distributing pattas (ownership rights) among forest-dwellers in the district, a small blast near Purulia railway station sent jitters among the police, who rushed to the spot and seized about 300 gelatin sticks scattered in the area near J K College. Bomb squad was also rushed and the whole area was cordoned off.
Security for the chief minister, who was returning to Kolkata, was beefed up. “We have defused the sticks and buried them,” Apurba Das, OC, Purulia town police station, said. The CM later came to adjoining Bankura to attend a ceremony to distribute pattas and said his government was using development as a tool to foil the designs of the Naxalites.
In all, 938 people, mostly tribals from the jungles, were given pattas at the ceremony.
“Maoists have posed a serious problem to us. They are killing innocent tribals who are sons of the soil. We are also focussing on development so that their purpose is defeated,” the CM said.
“People who live in jungles did not have the rights over their land. Now, I have given pattas so that they can build houses on their own land. We will have to finish distribution of the pattas before March 20 this year,” Bhattacharjee said. He also distributed money to those who took part in forest conservation. The ceremony was also attended by School Education Minister Partha Dey.
A security personnel on guard during the bandh on NH 33 on Saturday.
Ranchi/Jamshedpur, Feb. 27: The 24-hour Maoist-sponsored bandh passed off peacefully today.
No untoward incident was reported from across the state, though vehicles remained off the highways. Train services remained normal, barring one cancellation in the Chakradharpur division.
The bandh failed to make an impact even in Palamau division. The village haats remained busy with crowds indulging in last-minute holi shopping. It was as if the villagers were not even aware of the bandh.
Director-general of police Neyaz Ahmed maintained that no major untoward had been reported from any part of the state. He added that necessary precautions had been taken to meet any eventuality.
This was the third time bandh call by the rebels in less than two months. The Maoists had called a 24-hour bandh on January 2 and then a 72-hour bandh on February 7. Rail property became soft targets during these bandhs.
The failure of today’s bandh gave rise to speculation that the rebel outfits may have started losing mass support and that the police were also achieving strategic success.
The DGP, however, did not dwell at length on the success of his men. “We are using our available resources. We have also learnt lessons from our past mistakes. Let us hope for the best,” was all he said.
The Tata-Badampahar passenger was the only train to be cancelled today in view of the bandh. Tatanagar railway authorities said the train was cancelled as it runs through several Naxalite pockets on its way to Badampahar. Elaborate security arrangements had been made in Chakradharpur rail division to prevent the rebels from destroying railway property.
One person was arrested by the Gumla police today with a large haul of explosives. The explosives were reportedly meant for rebel leaders and had been smuggled out of Hindalco’s bauxite mines.
According to Gumla police superintendent Narendra Kumar Singh, 60 detonators, 150 boxes of explosives and over 1,000 metres of safety fuse wire were recovered from a house during raids in Bhains Bathan village, under Ghaghra police station, about 105km from the state capital. One Etwa Oraon (25) was arrested in this connection.
Singh maintained that Oraon was closely associated with Maoist sub-zonal commander Nakul Yadav. The explosives were likely to be used for disruptive activities during the bandh.
The role of a mining official was also under the scanner. Senior officials, however, refused to divulge more details, arguing that it would affect investigations.
Last Updated: 2010-02-28 01:27:02
The recent attack by Maoists on a Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) camp in Silda, West Bengal, and the state government’s response to subsequent developments should be an eye opener to all watching this terror movement.
On February 15, some 60 Maoists attacked and overran the camp, killing 24 jawans of EFR before vanishing. The camp site was located in such a place that it was an open invitation to the Maoists to strike. The site was not chosen by EFR, but the Superintendent of Police of Midnapore district, who subsequently shrugged off all responsibilities. The State Government is, however, supporting him.
On the other hand, the EFR IG , Binoy Chakraborty, who later briefed the press about the drawbacks of the camp and claimed he had repeatedly appraised the SP, was suspended by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya immediately afterwards.
What message was Buddha Babu sending to the Maoists and security forces at the same time?
In neighbouring Jharkand, Chief Minister Shibu Soren initially dismissed the Maoist issue, He not only withdrew permission to the security forces to indulge in hot pursuit, he also stopped communication interception of the Maoists. Was he paying his debt to the Maoists for helping in his election?
He acted reluctantly only after pressure following the abduction of Block Development Officer (BDO) Prasanth Layek. He secured Layek’s release not through a counter-terrorism operation but by releasing Maoist detainees. He had earlier described the abduction and threat to kill him as “small incidents” which keep on happening. This, after Sub-inspector Francis Indeevar was abducted and beheaded by the Maoists.
The Salwa Judum, the brain child of Chattisgarh politicians, also demands close scrutiny. Drawn from tribals of the same region, it is projected as an indigenous movement from among these to counter the Maoists. The Salwa Judum is like a private army created by the politicians, rich landlords and businessmen backed by the government to protect themselves and their properties. They are a law unto themselves, and rape and loot innocent tribals with impunity.
The Naxalite movement started in the North Bengal town of Naxalbari in 1967 with the very noble intentions of fighting for the have-nots and the down trodden. The founders, Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal drew their inspiration from Mao Zedong’s long march to power with rifle-millet peasant soldiers.
At that period of history, only selected information came out of Mao’s China. The only talk was of the Chinese Communist Party’s victory over imperialists and colonialists, equality among the people of China, and the great system of communes where no one owned anything, everyone worked, and all were looked after by the commune. The myth of Communist China’s utopia became a dream to chase for the deprived and exploited.
It was only after the death of Mao in 1976 and the fall of his wife Jiang Qing (of the infamous Gang of Four) that the truth of revolutionary China came out: Mao’s China was not utopia, it was a living hell.
More than 30 million people died during the Cultural Revolution. There was systematic anarchy spread by Mao’s Red Guards who were above the law. Some of those stories coming out still are too painful to even read. China changed course under Deng Xiaoping to a semi-capitalist country and progressed. Otherwise it would have destroyed itself.
When Naxalism started, the philosophy was that power can be acquired through the barrel of the gun to fight state oppression. The movement gradually broke up into different factions. Although the aim remained concentrated on the peasants and the landless, the methods differed.
The Chinese experiment proved that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Historically, the situation in China in the first half of the 20th Century was very different from what the situation is in India now. Charu Mazumdar’s son Abhijeet Mazumdar, an educated young man who still calls himself a Maoist, is leading a movement without violence. His Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) believes in the state structure.
Returning to the situation in the country, both the Maoists led by Kishenji, and the central government and the concerned state governments need to do some hard thinking. The Maoists must read and re-read Communist China’s recent history, and politicians must understand that in chasing for votes in elections they may destroy India’s emergence as a global power. The government and the administration must understand that without implementing the development programmes for the tribals and the landless honestly, they will be inviting very difficult times.
Kishenji and his Maoists must recognize that they might cause more destruction, but they cannot destroy the Indian state. Kishenji is exploiting the feuding political parties and politicians to strike more boldly. Unfortunately, he is as much a political usurper as the others. If he was an honest Robin Hood, he would allow educational and development programmes for the have–nots to fructify. Instead, he prefers to keep them in utter poverty so that he can exploit them against the state. He seems to be following the strategy of the mad Mullahs, who aim to keep the people uneducated except in their distorted version of Islam, and bring them up opiated in the kind of religion.
The focus at the moment is on West Bengal with Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee determined to oust the CPM from the state in the next elections. Her actions more than suggest that she is playing footsie with the Maoists to create a explosive situation in the state to demoralise and defame the ruling CPM. On the other hand, the CPM is sending signals at the cost of the state that all can be settled politically after the state elections and, in the meantime, serious strikes by the security will be blunted as far as possible. Kishenji, meanwhile, is pushing through his advantage to the maximum. Kishenji is no fool. He is collecting his chips from both sides.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram is in a difficult situation. He was unable to get the four Chief Ministers of the Maoist affected states together to carve an unified policy to counter the Maoists. Bihar’s Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, though very successful in his state, is talking about addressing the roots of the problem. He must understand that the situation is no longer the same. The politicians should have done that four decades ago.
In the 1970s and 1980s, when drug trade and drug addiction infected New York severely, the powers that be had intellectually ambled through the two decades discussing about the root causes. Then came Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who decided that while root problems would be addressed, the need of the moment was hard measures. He came out successful.
Mr. Chidambaram has to take a hard decision. Notwithstanding that the Maoists are Indian citizens, he and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) must see them as enemies of the state. The Maoists must be declared as such and banned by the centre.
Then the two states will also follow. Full force has to be applied, and this is not difficult.
At the same time problems of the tribals and the deprived must be addressed on an emergency footing. They are in dire straits.
The tribal lands are very rich in natural resources like Tendu leaves, timber and minerals. If these resources are to be exploited, the historical and natural owners of these lands must be handsomely compensated and they must be participants in every project. This is not difficult to do if the exploiters are reined in.
It is not just a carrot and stick policy that is required. What is required is empowerment of those who know nothing from birth to death other than exploitation, deprivation, hunger and torture.
This can be achieved without much difficulty if there is honest governance. Sadly, there is no such thing at the moment.
Bhaskar Roy, who retired recently as a senior government official with decades of national and international experience, is an expert on international relations and Indian strategic interests. The views expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of sify.com
Bhaskar Roy, who retired recently as a senior government official with decades of national and international experience, is an expert on international relations and Indian strategic interests. The views expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of sify.com
ALLAHABAD: For war ravaged third world countries like Afghanistan and Iraq battling with casualties and serious injuries to civilians on account of undetected landmines and for security personnel taking on the naxals in Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand, the news would certainly be a welcome one.
The scientists from Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (IIIT-A) are on course to developing a robot which can detect landmines and decontaminate them easily. Moreover, what is heartening to note is that the prototype of the robot is already on the verge of completion which means that once tested successfully it would make way for the production of the said robot on a large-scale.
The project entitled `Designing an Intelligent Robot for Explosive Detection and Decontamination' funded by MHRD, government of India, taken up by a student, Ashish Kumar Agarwal under the guidance of Prof G C Nandi, explores the design and development of classifier based on statistical methods and soft-computing based approaches, which is capable of identifying the mines and non-mines using various clustering, classification and rules establishment algorithms as to compare the algorithm on the basis of complexity and accuracy.
Talking to TOI, Ashish said, "If we already know about the upcoming hazards, it is very easy to find the way to abolish it. My objective is to predict whether at a particular point of working area is occupied by mines or not, with some confidence parameter. The robot is being designed to move toward these predicted areas to decontaminate the mines. These mines occupied area can be known before initiation of robot movements or can be predicted dynamically, so to design an obstacle-free path for robot is another aspect beyond the domain of this module."
He added, "Designing such a classifier is a big challenge because data is not linearly separable and since it has overlapping features, it is not possible to design a classifier with 100 per cent accuracy. This project deals with PVC tubes, wood piece and copper cylinders as non-mine data in addition to data of various mines. The basic idea of the classification is based on a fact that it is safe if the non-mines data is predicted as mine, but it is not the case when we predict mines data as non-mines. So the unsupervised learning based ART algorithm divides the data into several clusters which are merged on the basis of above fact. The data may be given in image form or some tabular form having all numeric or categorised attributes.
Exuding confidence that the robot would go a long way in reducing incidents of deaths due to hidden and undetected landmines, the research coordinator, Prof G C Nandi said, "Anti-personnel landmines are a significant barrier to economic and social development in a number of countries, so we need a classification system that can differentiate a mine from metallic debris on the basis of given data. This data is generated by some highly accurate sensors."
He added, "All the eight different algorithms have been implemented to compare the results. This classifier is giving result with 80 per cent accuracy. The best result is being given by ART and genetic algorithm. Fuzzy C-mean and Gustavson Kessel is also good because of membership values for each class. This module can differentiate between the PVC tube, wood piece, brass tube, copper cylinder (non-mine data) and the mine data obtained from various sources. On the basis of this prediction, path designers develop an obstacle-free path to decontaminate these mines.
As per a Home Ministry report, there were no inputs to indicate that Maoists were procuring arms from any foreign country even though they maintain fraternal links with Communist Party of Nepal and Maoists and Communist parties of countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan and Philippines.
It said that most of the foreign-made weapons carried by Naxalites were those that have been looted from security forces.
Sources said the most common foreign-made arm used by the Naxals is the AK-47, which is usually looted from security forces during naxal raids, like in the case of recent attack on a police camp in West Bengal in which the left-wing extremists fled with about 40 weapons, including AKs.
According to latest Home Ministry data updated till 2007, a total of 86,012 posts -- 49,252 in Maharashtra and 36,760 in J-K -- are vacant.
Following them are Uttar Pradesh with 22,267 vacant posts, Bihar with about 22,000 and Andhra Pradesh with 19,268.
In Naxal-infested Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand there are 14,867, 13,007, 8,724 and 2,449 posts respectively, which have not been filled, according to the data.
The vacancies range from the rank of constable to Deputy Superintendents of Police. "We share our concern with state and Union Territories' administrations regarding these vacancies. But they need to take steps in this regard since law and order is a state subject," a Home Ministry official said.
Homeland defence Heavily armed paramilitary forces in the tribal belt of Lalgarh, West Bengal
Photo: PINTU PRADHAN
WITH MAOIST leader Kishenji’s rather bold offer for ceasefire to the Union government, a new situation seems to be unfolding in the red corridor of heartland India. Seeking to place the ball in the Centre’s court, the 72-day offer clearly seems to trump Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s 72-hour offer. Moreover, it’s the nature of the offer — unconditional, as opposed to earlier Maoist proposals stipulating the release of their key leaders, restoration of land and forests to the tribals, scrapping of Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with big investors etc, all major irritants for the government — which begs a serious consideration. Practically the only condition set by the Maoists this time is that the State should reciprocate. This is at a time when reports of the CRPF in Lalgarh killing Lalmohan Tudu of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) in front of his family members on February 22 are filtering in, over and above the initial propaganda about him being killed during an attack on a CRPF camp.
Chidambaram, instead of welcoming the offer to start a process of negotiation and addressing the substantive issues at hand, responded with a presumptuous and hypocritical statement calling upon the Maoists to abjure violence first. The Planning Commission’s Expert Group on Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas has argued that the government is engaging in peace talks with other rebel groups like the Nagas even though they have not abjured violence and in fact ‘taken advantage of the peaceful conditions to consolidate their parallel government’. So, they ask, ‘why a different approach for the Maoists?’
Chidambaram is clearly trying to make violence the key issue — that the real problem facing the country is violence by illegitimate actors like the Maoists and not the inequalities and injustices that are spiralling in the country. On the other hand, basking in the cover of being constitutional and democratically elected, even as it spearheads a system of a million injustices and the repressive Operation Green Hunt, the charge of being ‘violent’ somehow does not stick against the government. Instead, with terror attacks in Mumbai and Pune, the non-State violence as the main problem gets reinforced by the discourse of the ‘war on terror’ — that our country is under attack and hence no dissensions. NATO troops at Marjah, Afghanistan, are currently supposed to be flushing out the Taliban and then installing a civilian government — not too different from Chidambaram’s policy of flushing out Maoists to make way for a civilian administration.
THE GOVERNMENT IS MORE COMFORTABLE ENGAGING WITH THE NAGA OR KASHMIRI MILITANTS IN TALKS, THAN WITH MAOISTS
This approach frames the Maoists in terms of a conflict model — that this is primarily a problem of violence, of illegitimate actors challenging the State and rule of law, and indeed the understanding that the Maoists are ‘the biggest internal security threat’. There is an underside to this seemingly straightforward picture. By simply raking up the violent nature of the Maoists again and again, the substantive issues at hand — corporate plunder, land grab, vigilante groups like Salwa Judum — are easily set aside or regarded as secondary.
Hence Kishenji’s dropping of the other conditions for ceasefire might add to this perception that violence is the real issue. In fact, several civil society groups and independent intellectuals who have always insisted on addressing the core problems facing tribals might even feel that this is a new situation where only violence and hostilities become the real problem. However, through this offer, the Maoists may actually be trying to reach out to civil society. They are probably appealing to the wider civil society — maybe to gain some credibility as a political force; or be recognised as not only interested in violence and a military solution. This must be seen as a positive development. The ‘abjure violence first’ line, however, is bent upon undoing this.
So what about the ‘skeptics’ who argue that the Maoists have come with this offer only because they are feeling the heat of Operation Green Hunt, or they are being strategic and trying to regroup — biding time, trying to trap the government? What is significant is that even though they may be feeling the heat, given the repression unleashed by the State, the Maoists are seeking a political process, involving sections of civil society, unlike the belligerent attitude of the State.
Indeed the government has made it impossible for anyone from outside to visit these ‘affected areas’ — human rights activists and independent observers have been harassed and chased away repeatedly. A cessation of hostilities is therefore what the State fears the most — for that will mean the possibility of a free exchange between the Maoists in the hinterland and urban civil society. The State clearly does not want that to happen — for that will turn the heat on it. This is the real trap it fears — getting politically cornered for its misdeeds. Hence, the need for this hysteria surrounding Maoist violence and human rights activists of supporting it.
There is nothing retrograde for the Maoists in seeking a political way out when cornered militarily — if this is what the ceasefire means. But the ‘abjure violence’ approach of the government seems to be aimed at precluding precisely such a possibility. Even the language used in the media — regroup, bidding for time, walking into a trap — all assume a situation of continuing war. In a way, the demand to ‘abjure violence’ is nothing less than the guilt of the State slipping out. Foregrounding violence in the context of a ceasefire allows the State to skirt the key issues and keep portraying the Maoists as liable to be physically eliminated, catching them off-guard.
This is the experience of the talks between the State and the Peoples War Group in Andhra Pradesh, where the ceasefire was used by the State to finish off the Maoists. Making the ‘violent’ tag stick on the Maoists meant that they could be delegitimised and made easy targets even after formal talks had started in October 2004 between the Maoists and the government, while the undercover attacks and elimination of Maoist leaders and sympathisers continued unabated. Leading civil liberties activist KG Kannabiran, who was one of the eight mediators then, told BBC that, “It was agreed that the police would not undertake combing operations against the Maoists. Why was there a need for the police to become so active, launching combing operations and killing the extremists in encounters?”
PERHAPS THIS is where return to a focus on the core issue of tribal displacement and habitat, cannot in the circumstances, be delinked from the fate of the Maoist movement. After all the Maoist movement is not only a current problem or a temporary happenstance specific to the present conjuncture. Since 1967, the Naxal movement and its present avatar, the Maoists, have stared in the face of the ruling order of the country. Indeed the Naxal slogan — Yeh azaadi jhooti hai (this independence is false) is a comment on the state of our nation. To relegate the Maoist issue to only one of violence, or for that matter that of Adivasis or land reforms or livelihood — is to deny and suppress its wider political provenance — something which might have implications on the very ‘idea of India’. This is perhaps why the government is more comfortable engaging with the Naga or Kashmiri militants in talks, than with the Maoists.
Those on the left and progressive liberals, ruing the erosion of ‘the idea of India’ and the decline of our political ideals, are so status-quoist in their upholding of the constitutional values of democracy, that they have conceded any possibility of rewriting history, or revising the basic structure of the Constitution, to the Hindu right. This seems true of the post-ideological, neoliberal age where the right-wing free marketeers are the radicals, calling for change, whereas the left are the conservatives, holding on to the myth of the founding moment and a dream of the long-dead founding fathers of the republic. The Naxal who refuses to ‘abjure violence’, in precisely being unconstitutional and undemocratic, in moving out of the shadow of our founding fathers, has come to stand for a left-wing agenda of change, taking the wind out of the Hindu right’s sails and realigning the terrain of thinking for the left as a whole. Whether the Maoists are adequate to this fertile moment is however not a settled question yet.
(Saroj Giri is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Delhi University)
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 09, Dated March 06, 2010
Raipur, Feb 27 : In a bid to suffocate plots of possible jail breaks by arrested Maoists, mobile phone jammers will be installed at seven jails in Chhattisgarh.
"There will be 25 cell phone jammers to be installed at seven jails, at a cost of Rs.6 crore. The trial process is on and we plan to make the system operational within the next few weeks. This will help us to prevent cellular phones from receiving signals from or transmitting signals to base stations," an official of the jail department here told IANS Saturday.
The jammers would be installed at four jails located at Raipur, Bilaspur, Jagdalpur and Ambikapur towns besides the district jail at Kanker, sub-jails at Katghora in Korba district and Dantewada, the worst Maoist insurgency-hit district of the country.
In December 2007, a group of Maoists lodged at the Dantewada sub-jail, 380 km from Raipur, had successfully plotted a jail break by using mobile phones. Some 300 prisoners, including about 100 leftist rebels, managed to escape.
Later, the state government had decided to go in for mobile phone jammers at jails where Maoist guerrillas and dreaded criminals were housed.
The jammers will also help the jail authorities to curb organised crime and extortion businesses being operated by hardcore criminals from the prisons with the help of mobile phones.
Copyright Indo Asian News
Chandigarh: Top Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy had been frequenting Punjab to mobilise cadres and one of his most-visited places was the Punjabi University in Patiala.
Ghandy disclosed this to Punjab Police during interrogation in the last 2-3 days.
Punjab had registered a case against him under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Act, 2008, in January last year after he was arrested in Delhi.
Lodged in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail, Ghandy has been brought to Patiala on a transit remand.
Police said in the last four years, he visited Punjab thrice to explore how the Maoist movement could be revived. He denied hand in any of the violent activities in the state in the recent past, but reaffirmed he had been in touch with more than 20 people in Punjab, they said.
Police investigations have been focused on finding out whether Ghandy’s visits to Punjab were aimed at sowing seeds of insurgency.
Police said after receiving information from intelligence agencies that Ghandy stayed on the Punjabi University campus a few months before his arrest, they registered a case against the Maoist leader and his accomplice, Manoj aka Rajesh.
“We have been trying to find out the motive behind his stay and any links he might have established in Punjab,” RS Khatra, senior superintendent of police, Patiala, said.
“We are also trying to ascertain the exact duration of his stay in Patiala and are gathering details of his companion, Manoj.”
Ghandy is a politburo member of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and worked for the group in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.
Punjabi University authorities said they had no knowledge of the matter, but Patiala Police are sure Ghandy stayed in the university
under the fake identity of professor Kishore.
They are trying to ascertain whether he was alone or accompanied by someone during his movement in Punjab.
New Delhi: In the face of growing challenges to internal security, particularly from left-wing insurgency, budgetary allocation for the home ministry has almost been doubled for the financial year 2010-11.It has been increased from Rs1,810.63 crore in 2009-10 to Rs3,283.39 crore for the next financial year.
Even as modernisation, training and increasing strength of the central paramilitary forces remain the key areas of investment, some new security-related aspects such as formulating a national register of citizens and distribution of a Unique Identity Number to the citizens also received the attention of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.
In order to complete this exercise through the length and breadth of the country, financial allocation for census surveys and statistics has been significantly increased. From Rs303.40 crore in 2009-10, it has been increased to Rs911.71 crore for 2010-11.
The Unique ID project is all set to enter its operational phase. A separate allocation of Rs1,900 crore has been made for the purpose.
The government has decided to back the home ministry’s plan to speedily fill the vacancies in the central paramilitary forces (CPMFs), particularly at the lower levels. Accordingly, budgetary sanction has been provided for recruitment of 2,000 constables during 2009-10.
While preparing to take the Maoist insurgents head-on, the government has not lost sight of the socio-economic aspect of the problem. Mukherjee’s budgetary proposals also included an integrated action plan for development of Maoist-affected areas. The Planning Commission will give shape to it, financial allocation will follow.
Though training of the CPMFs received the largest chunk of the budget for internal security, it also witnessed a marginal decline in allocation. From Rs21,035.46 during the 2009-10 period it came down to Rs18,714.95 crore in 2010-11.
Among the paramilitary forces, the National Security Guards led the allocation table with Rs5,745.87 crore followed by the CRPF with Rs5,560.86 crore. The BSF ranked third with an allocation of Rs5,273.08 crore.
Plan outlay for disaster management saw an increase over last year’s allocation. It was increased to Rs545.86 crore from Rs 384.30 crore given in last year’s budget. The sum is dismally low, compared to the size of the country.
Acting on a tip-off, security personnel comprising CRPF and Jharkhand Armed Police carried out raids at Bhainsbathan village and seized explosives hidden in about 300 boxes, Superintendent of Police M K Singh said here.
The boxes were packed with detonators, plastic explosives and safety fuse with each box having space for 100 detonators and safety fuse, he said.
Police detained a man identified as Etwa Oraon for questioning in connection with the case, he said, adding raids were still continuing based on his confessions.
The SP said the explosives were to be supplied to Sanjay Yadav, who broke away from CPI(Maoist) to float Chhattisgarh-Jharkhand Simanta Committee
Speaking to a gathering here during distribution of 'pattas' (land rights) of forest land to 938 tribals from Jangal Mahal area, he said, "Maoist problem was a matter of concern".
The Jangal Mahal area stretches across West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts. The 'pattas' were distributed in keeping with a Bill passed in Parliament in 2006 which recognised the rights of tribals over forest land where they were living for generations.
Later, Bhattacharjee met top district police officials to discuss the Maoist problem.
About 1,000 policemen were deployed as a security measure in the insurgency-hit area.
"I feel the Maoist leaders are not serious on holding dialogue with the government since there is no pressure on them," Union Home Secretary G K Pillai said.
To another question, Pillai said the government could not take into account statements of "unknown" Maoist activists.
He was talking to reporters on the sidelines of a function at Assam Rifles Training Centre and School near here.
Gumla (Jharkhand), Feb 27 : A huge cache of explosives was recovered from Bhainsbathan village in Jharkhands Gumla District on Saturday.
The recovered explosives include 6000 detonators.
According to Gumla District Superintendent of Police M K Singh, acting on a tip-off, security personnel carried out raids at Bhainsbathan village and seized explosives.
Singh added that the explosives were hidden in about 300 boxes.
The boxes were packed with detonators, plastic explosives and safety fuse with each box having space for 100 detonators and safety fuse, he said.
Police detained a man identified as Etwa Oraon for questioning in connection with the case.
Police sources said that raids were still continuing in different parts of the district based on Oraon confessions.
Singh said the explosives were to be supplied to Sanjay Yadav, who broke away from the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) to float Chhattisgarh-Jharkhand Simanta Committee.
Copyright Asian News International (ANI)
300 boxes of explosives, detonators seized
Last Updated: 2010-02-27 19:28:25
Ranchi: About 300 boxes of explosives and detonators were seized from a house in Jhrakhand's Gumla district on Saturday, police said.
Jharkhand Police in a joint operation with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), raided a house at Bhainbathan village, about 140 km from here.
'During the raid, 300 boxes were seized. Each box contained detonators, explosives and fuse wires. From the 300 boxes, around 6,000 detonators were seized. One person has been detained in this connection,' a police officer told IANS.
According to police, the detonators and explosives were to be supplied to Maoist rebels.
Salua, Feb. 26: Governor M.K. Narayanan felt the grievances of policemen’s families about lack of safety at camps were “reasonable” when he visited the Eastern Frontier Rifles headquarters here today.
After speaking to the kin of the 24 EFR personnel killed in the Maoist strike on the Shilda camp last week, Narayanan said: “Our aim is to avoid this sort of tragedy. The family members have some reasonable demands. The camps should be shifted to protected places.”
“Even the district magistrate and superintendent of police have admitted it (lack of security and infrastructure in some camps),” he added.
However, Narayanan refused to get drawn into whether lapses on the part of the police and the administration had led to the massacre. “There is no effort on our part to make any assessment,” he said.
But he will submit a report to the chief minister on his return to Calcutta.
Asked about Delhi’s proposed Green Hunt operation against the Maoists, Narayanan, a former national security adviser and intelligence official, said: “I have my own views about.... This is not the right place to talk (about them).”
While listening to the widows of the slain policemen, Narayanan kept taking notes.
“I told him that the living condition in our quarters is bad but the condition of the camps is worse,” said Padmini Basumatary.
“I asked him what will happen to me and my family now. He… asked me not to worry.”
Parvati Thakuri wept. “The chief minister did not bother to come here to see how we are after the tragedy,” she complained to the governor.
Narayanan placed a wreath on a memorial for the slain Shilda cops. He also visited the injured in hospital.
“This is a great tragedy,” he said, adding that his 38-year career with the police had brought him to Salua.
Sarenga (Bankura), Feb. 25: Ten minutes after the guns had fallen silent and the Maoists had stopped firing from the Kusumbani forest, Rabi Lochan Mitra, the inspector in-charge of Sarenga police station, turned back with his men and had barely walked half a kilometre in the dead of night when firing started from a half-constructed market.
Mitra had walked into a Maoist trap.
After a 20-minute gun-battle, Mitra took a bullet in his chest and a few minutes later, he lay dead. Police later said that had Mitra been wearing the bullet-proof jacket kept in the station, he would have been alive now.
According to the police, the Maoist attack in Sarenga, a town on the border of Bankura and West Midnapore, began a little past midnight, when a group of 20 rebels came in a minibus and walked in a single file to the house of a local CPM leader, Tarashankar Patra, near the Gobindapur market.
Seeing some of the lights on in the house, the Maoists, who had entered from the back, shot at the bulbs and plunged the house into darkness. Then they started shouting for Patra to come out of the house, all the while calling him a “CPM harmad”. When no one responded, they kicked open the door and pulled Patra out.
The Maoists tied his hands and feet and made him squat on the steps leading to the backdoor. As he struggled and screamed, the Maoists shot him in his left leg.
Patra’s wife Mita had by then quietly called up the Sarenga police station and by 1am, 40 personnel of the special trained company (Straco) of the police, led by Mitra, arrived at Patra’s house.
The police personnel, who had taken up defences behind the boundary wall, shone two powerful searchlights at the house. With the backdoor lit up, they saw Patra sitting crouched on the doorstep with a Maoist holding a revolver to his head. One of the policemen shot the Maoist in the chest. As he fell to the ground, the other Maoists retaliated. The exchange of fire went on for about half an hour, after which the Maoists took to their heels.
The Maoists then broke up into two groups and while one went towards the Kusumbani forest, the other headed to the Gobindapur market.
In the confusion and the darkness, the police did not notice the group bound for the market. Instead, they followed the group of Maoists who went into the forest that began almost from the back of Patra’s house.
Misled into thinking that all the Maoists had gone into the forest, the police engaged them till the rebels’ guns fell silent. The police then fell into the Maoist trap while returning to the market.
“Just like the Straco men, the Maoists also appeared to be armed with Insas and AK-47 rifles,” said DIG, Midnapore range, Piyush Pandey. Both Mitra and Patra were rushed to hospital. Mitra was declared dead, while Patra is recovering.
At Writers’ Buildings, director-general of police Bhupinder Singh said: “The police station was equipped with both night-vision equipment as well as bullet-proof jackets. The police should always use them. We are recommending his name for gallantry award.”
In the Sarenga encounter, while one Maoist was shot dead, another who suffered bullet injuries is admitted to hospital. He will be arrested soon, police said.
Three persons have been arrested from near the Jharkhand border and Kharagpur in connection with the Shilda camp attack. Police said Suklal Soren was a Maoist action squad member who took part in the attack while Ashis Mahato and Manas Mahato had helped the rebels buy two vehicles used during the strike. A Bolero and a pick-up van were used to ferry the Maoists.
Saturday , Feb 27, 2010 at 0144 hrs
Surat : The Gujarat Police on Friday filed a comprehensive FIR against the banned CPI (Maoist) to investigate the organisation’s activities and identify the persons involved in its spread in the state.
Though Gujarat has a very large tribal belt, it has so far remained unaffected by Naxalism.
The complaint filed by the police, however, indicates that the banned CPI (Maoist) is trying to spread its network in the state, especially in tribal regions of south Gujarat.
“We have been compiling various interrogation reports of CPI (Maoists) activists arrested in other states and also examining various documents being distributed by them in the tribal belt of south Gujarat, and intelligence reports suggesting their activities,” Surat Range Inspector General or Police A K Singh said.
He added: “We have analysed the source materials and believe that their activities in south Gujarat are in continuation with their activities in the other Naxal-affected states of the country.
“This is the first comprehensive FIR registered against them that will give legal power to the police to investigate and find out the spread of CPI (Maoist) in south Gujarat. Earlier, only minor complaints were filed against them. It is a banned organisation and we need to track their every movement.”
The FIR by the police states: “Based on the variety of the source material available, certain dimension of the organisational activities of CPI (Maoists) has come to notice in south Gujarat. An offence has been registered under the various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), to enable full investigation into the matter in terms of their plans, activities and the persons involved.”
New Delhi: The civil rights organisations, which were named by the Delhi Police in its chargesheet against top Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy, today claimed that they were being targeted for protesting against "undemocratic practices" and threatened to move court.
Asking the Delhi Police to withdraw the names from the charge sheet running into over 800 pages, right activists argued that no evidence has been provided whatsoever to substantiate the allegations.
People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), People's Union of Democratic Rights (PUDR), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) are among the organisations which were mentioned in the charge sheet accusing them of helping Maoists.
"We will take the matter to the court unless the Delhi police withdraws the name of the PUCL from the charge sheet. What is the evidence? Just because you are fighting for human rights does not mean that you can be targeted," retired justice Rajindar Sachar told reporters here.
Arundhati Roy, writer and activist, said, "An attempt is being made to tame the activists who openly protested 'Operation Green Hunt'. It's a logical step for the government to expand the theatre of war."
"In a democracy one should have the freedom to express views. But the government is attempting to quell all dissident voices by increasingly targeting human right activists," noted supreme court lawyer Prasant Bhushan said.
The charge sheet against Ghandy, a Politburo member of the banned CPI (Maoist) arrested in September last year from Delhi, was filed on February 19.
Bhushan referred to yesterday's Supreme Court decision when the apex court slammed Andhra Pradesh government for its claim that elite anti-Naxalite police force Greyhounds was deployed in Osmania University campus as intelligence inputs had revealed some of the students were naxal sympathisers.
"The apex court had said that merely being a sympathiser does not make one a criminal. Are people not entitled to speak their views," he asked.
When asked whether he was justifying the Maoists' actions, the noted lawyer said, "If you are going to deprive tribals lands, the only means of their livelihood, by forcefully evicting them, then some of them may take up arms with the Maoists."
The activists asked both the government and Maoists to observe a ceasefire and start a dialogue. "Both the government and the ultras have expressed willingness to engage in talks. Then why the delay and the blame game?," Sachar asked.
"The government should also ensure that all MOUs, if entered, for projects on areas inhibited by tribals should be frozen and no compulsory acquisition of tribal lands and habitats be undertaken. Tribals should not be displaced," he said.
The right activists also asked the government to stop operations like 'Operation Green Hunt' and Salwa JUDUM.
Lucknow : Even as the police claim to have recovered books on Maoist activities and provocative anti-government pamphlets from the Hasanganj residence of alleged Maoist Kripashanker alias Manoj, his landlord claims the police team did not even enter the room.
“They made inquiries about Manoj and took my signature on a blank paper. No one entered the room,” Maksood Khan, the landlord, told The Indian Express.
Manoj, who lived in the crowded Makkaganj locality in Lucknow with his wife, Pushpa, was arrested from Kanpur on February 8.
Khan said Manoj paid advance rent on the 28th of every month. He has already paid the rent for February. He added that Manoj was last seen here on February 5, two days after which his wife also left the place.
While the police claim he was a technical expert of Uttar Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand Special Area Committee (3USAC) of the Maoists, his neighbours say Manoj and his wife were the “academic types” mostly seen reading books.
“They were good by nature, but generally kept to themselves. They came out of the room to fetch water from the common pump, otherwise most of the time they stayed inside or were seen reading books,” said Neeraj Verma, a neighbour.
Verma added: “Ten days ago, three unidentified men came here, opened the room and left after 10 minutes. One of the three men later accompanied the police team that raided the room on Friday night.”
The couple hired the room on rent on September 28, identifying themselves as Manoj Kumar Singh of Paina village in Deoria, and Pushpa Singh. The duo claimed that they were working as Shikshamitra in Deoria and had come to Lucknow for the medical treatment of a relative. Some people reportedly accompanied a girl to their place a month ago. The girl is said to have undergone surgery at CSM Medical University, it is learnt.
A team led by Samir Saurabh, CO of Babupurwa in Kanpur, raided the room based on information provided by Krispashanker during interrogation. Babupurwa CO Samir Saurabh, meanwhile, added that they had no information about Pushpa or her involvement in any Naxal activity.
“Don’t forget the bottom line — they believe in armed liberation struggle”
Admits that situation on the naxalite front is bad
Also admits there were police excesses in certain areas of Maoist dominance
NEW DELHI: Intellectual support to Maoists made the task of tackling them “very difficult” as it confused people, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said here on Friday.
The most difficult element in dealing with naxalites was lack of trained policemen. It was followed by intellectual and material support. The Maoists seduced the media as they unleashed false charges in courts and pulled all strings to activate their frontal organisations, including the unsuspecting non-government organisations, to widen their circle of influence for support.
“But don’t forget the bottom line — the CPI(Maoists) believe in armed liberation struggle. “Accept it or reject it. There can be no half-way approach. Most people still think there could be a compromise or some kind of median approach. This is immature and foolish,” he said.
Mr. Chidambaram said the government was following a policy on naxalites but it would take some time for the results to become visible, and in the meantime they would continue to try every trick in the bag to garner support, he said at an interaction with the Indian Women’s Press Corps on Friday.
He admitted that the situation on the naxalite front was bad. “This is expected because as long as we did not engage them, they were happy and expanding. They will continue to expand unless we challenge them.”
Denying that any operation was being carried out under the name of “Operation Green Hunt” in Chhattisgarh, he said the Centre was just assisting the States in reclaiming the areas under Maoists control. “This is a careful, controlled and calibrated move with no carnage or collateral damage.”
The Minister admitted that there were police excesses in certain areas of Maoist dominance. He said, “I will hold the State government accountable if they commit excesses.”
There was need to take control of Maoist areas, establish a civil administration and ensure development. “The troops have been told you don’t fire till you are fired upon. The objective is only to reach the areas.”
Explaining his offer of talks to Maoists if they abjured violence, he said he did not ask them to lay down arms or disband their organisation. “I said give up violence for 72 hours, give me 72 hours to consult everyone and respond to your giving up violence and we will find a way out.”
Even before the CPI(M) could stabilise and get its act together after it was formed in 1964 following the historic split in the CPI over what the Marxists call “revisionism and sectarianism in the Communist movement at the international and national level”, it was convulsed by a revolt within. Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal, veteran Communists of north Bengal, insisted that pursuing the path of parliamentary democracy was futile; that conditions were ripe for a rural insurrection to seize state power; and, that till this goal was achieved, the party should play the role of “revolutionary opposition” instead of becoming a part of the bourgeois system.
By early-1967 Charu Mazumdar had all but declared his split with the CPI(M). The insurrection, when it came, was more of a monsoon uprising than a spring thunder. On May 25 the police fired at protesting landless peasants in a remote hamlet called Naxalbari in north Bengal. That incident triggered what came to be known as the ‘Naxalite movement’, based on Mao’s dictum that “power flows from the barrel of the gun”. It spread like a wild fire from West Bengal to Bihar to Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere.
The late-1960s and early-1970s were tumultuous years in West Bengal. The United Front experiment had proved to be catastrophic, resulting in political chaos and social upheaval. The Naxalites made the best use of the situation. In 1972 the Congress won the Assembly election and Mr Siddhartha Shankar Ray took charge as Chief Minister on March 19. He immediately set himself to the task of tackling the Naxalite menace. Charu Mazumdar was picked up from his hideout (some of his trusted comrades are believed to have squealed on him after a dose of what used to be known as ‘third degree treatment’ in the pre-jholawallah era) on July 16, 1972, and died 12 days later on July 28 at Alipore Central Jail. Minor distractions like custodial deaths did not bother Mr Ray. He gave the police a free hand and demanded results. He got them. By 1977, the ‘prairie fire’ in West Bengal had been stamped out; nobody was under any illusion that Mr Ray and his police had played by the rule book but everybody heaved a huge sigh of relief.
Over the following decades the Naxalite movement waxed and waned and waxed yet again. But what began as the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) splintered into innumerable groups, each proclaiming its own ideological line and claiming it to be more correct than that of the others. The cadre, however, continued to be referred to as ‘Naxalites’. In September 2004, three dominant factions — the People’s War Group in Andhra Pradesh, the Maoist Communist Centre in Bihar and the CPI (ML-Party Unity) in West Bengal — came together to join forces and launch the CPI (Maoist). They also declared that the movement was no longer to be associated with the peasant uprising in Naxalbari but the larger goal of Maoism (overthrowing the state with the use of force) and the cadre would henceforth be called Maoists, not Naxalites.
Since then, there has been a spectacular rise in Maoist violence. Security experts say up to 180 districts have sizeable presence of well-armed, highly motivated and ideologically committed Maoist cadre. The Government concedes nearly 25 per cent of India’s districts are Maoist-infested. The worst affected States are Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar. What has greatly hampered efforts to quell Maoist violence is the pernicious campaign by the Left-liberal intelligentsia that the state, and not the Maoists, are to blame. The CPI (Maoist) is a banned organisation. Yet it continues to enjoy the support of civil liberties and human rights activists who crowd television studios.
This has only served to embolden the Maoists. A marauding horde descended on Phulwaria Karasi village in Bihar’s Jamui district last Wednesday night and slaughtered 12 tribals. Last Monday, Maoists killed 24 jawans of Eastern Frontier Rifles at Shildah in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district. Many of them were charred alive. The attack was led by a woman, Jagari Baskey, who is said to have the “eyes of a cobra”. Maoist leader Koteswara Rao, also known as ‘Kishenji’, who is in regular contact with mediapersons, issued a statement after the massacre: “We have attacked the camp and this is our answer to P Chidambaram’s Operation Green Hunt… unless the Centre stops this inhuman military operation we are going to answer this way only.”
Maoists, coyly described as ‘Left-wing extremists’ by the Government, are in reality thugs and criminals masquerading as champions of tribals whom they terrorise with guns, loot, rape and murder at will. The much-touted and talked about ‘Operation Green Hunt’ is yet to be launched. The Government’s hand, it would seem, is being held back by intellectuals who have no qualms about justifying murder in the name of Mao. If the Union Government is hesitant to act against what the Prime Minister has repeatedly described as the “gravest internal security threat” which India faces today, then State Governments, barring the Government of Chhattisgarh, have proved to be equally pusillanimous in their approach. Strangely, a Cabinet Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee, claims that “there are no Maoists” and hence there is “no need for police action”. A Trinamool Congress MP, Mr Kabir Suman, a guitar-swinging wannabe Bob Dylan who has sworn to uphold the Constitution of India, has recently released a music album extolling Chhatradhar Mahato, a Maoist now in police custody.
The time to discuss and strategise the state’s response to Maoist terror is long past. The Government cannot be seen to be abdicating its primary responsibility of protecting citizens from criminal excesses. It must act with the fully fury of the state, and act now. Let there be no mistake: Maoists are thugs and criminals who deserve no mercy; Maoists are dedicated to the goal of overthrowing the state and will never give up their violent ways; Maoists do not respect human rights and hence there is no reason why the state should care a toss about their human rights. The argument about fighting Red terror with development is fallacious. Maoists are the biggest impediment to development projects. They have been blowing up schools, health care centres, panchayat buildings and roads, thus destroying infrastructure needed for taking development to the rural hinterland inhabited by tribals. They are anti-development, yet they claim they are fighting for the welfare of tribals.
The Government’s response must be harsh, relentless and unforgiving: Two eyes for an eye; the entire jaw for a tooth. Maoist terror must be met with overwhelming force. The jholawallahs should be told to go take a walk, or join Kobad Gandhi in his prison cell. Nothing less will suffice.
-- Follow the writer on: http://twitter.com/KanchanGupta. Blog on this and other issues at http://kanchangupta.blogspot.com. Write to him at email@example.com
RANCHI: If Jagari Baskey is Bengal's dreaded woman Maoist leader, who conducted the Silda operation in that state, several major Naxalite operations in neighbouring Jharkhand have been led and conducted by women. "The women Maoists are known to be more ferocious than their male counterparts and have better leadership qualities," said a Naxalite observer here.
There are more than a dozen women Maoist leaders and several cadres lodged in various jails across the state, major ones among them being Sheela Di, who had led several operations in the state. Sheela Di is the wife of Kishan Da, a CPI(Maoist) central committee member. Being the wife of a top-notch leader, she was considered a member of the think-tank of the outfit, police said. Sheela Di is now lodged in Chaibasa jail.
According to the CPI(Maoist) themselves, at least 40% of its cadres are women. Police sources pointed out that like the male cadres, the women cadres also operate in the East Singbhum areas bordering West Bengal namely Patamda and Bundu, Tamar in Ranchi district. They also operate in the Parasnath area of Giridih, and Bokaro. In the Kundan Pahan group operating in Bundu, Tamar female leader Sushila Ji is also said to be very active.
Police say it is not necessary that the women lead these operations but are necessarily included in such raids so that the groups are not easily identified. "Woman leaders and cadres mix more easily with a crowd, which is an advantage for the Maoists," said a source.
Significantly, some woman leaders/cadres have joined the outfit to avenge the death of their kin in encounters. Malti, according to police records, had joined the outfit after she was betrayed by her paramour and then by her husband.
Women Maoists move from village to village to drive the Maoist ideology home in the minds of women, urging them to join the outfit and even use force at times. Although a number of them are from neighbouring West Bengal, these women are not in jeans or skirts and they speak the local language, thus moulding themselves with the village culture.
2001: At least 15 policemen were killed when a police picket in Topchanchi was attacked and arms looted by Maoists. The operation, according to police records, was led by a woman Maoist.
2001: Malti, another Naxalite, was arrested for the murder of Lohardaga superintendent of police, Ajay Kumar Singh.
2002: The Chandrapura Government Railway Police near Bokaro was plundered and arms looted. This operation, too, was led by Nirmala Chatterjee, a leader of the Maoist Communist Centre and widow of Sagar Chatterjee, who was shot by police in Bihar's Aurangabad district in 1992.
2004: JMM MP Sunil Mahto was killed by Maoists and the operation was headed by a woman commander, Kunti Devi alias Dula Di, who is now in jail.
2005: Homeguard headquarters in Giridih was attacked by Maoists in which several homeguards were killed and the armoury was looted. Again, this operation was led by women.
NEW DELHI: Arvind Joshi, an MCom student and alleged accomplice of top Maoist ideologue Kobad Ghandy, has been arrested along with seven others by Uttar Pradesh STF at Kanpur. Delhi Police will now seek remand of Joshi who they believe holds vital information regarding Naxalite activities in Delhi and NCR. The UP police also claimed to have seized two hard disks and Maoist literature from Joshi and his accomplices.
Joshi, police said, is a member of the central committee of CPI (Maoist) and also secretary of northern regional committee. He is alleged to have fled from Badarpur in Delhi, along with hard disks and other documents, after the arrest of Ghandy in September last year.
Sources also claimed the hard disks contain the plan to carry out strikes in Delhi and NCR, and also substantial information about Naxalite contacts of Ghandy. The emails sent and received by Kobad and Joshi to their contacts is of vital importance, police said. The Andhra police, which is assisting Delhi Police with the investigations, says it has information that Naxalites want to make a ‘‘big impression’’ by carrying out a strike in Delhi or NCR. ‘‘They are desperate to strike and this can also be gauged from the recent strikes they have carried out in Bihar and West Bengal,’’ said an Andhra Pradesh police officer.
Additional director general (Law and Order) Brij Lal said, ‘‘We have nabbed a man named Arvind. He is believed to be an accomplice of Kobad Ghandy. We have also seized literature from him, which was written by Ghandy. Two hard disks were seized, which are being examined. Arvind was arrested along with seven others and all of them are in police custody.’’ Delhi Police also said Ghandy is not suffering from prostate cancer, a claim made by the Maoist ideologue at the time of his arrest. ‘‘We have put him through various medical tests. The reports have revealed that he was not suffering from cancer. However, due to his age, doctors say he is suffering from a mild heart ailment and prostate problems,’’ said a senior police officer.
Ghandy’s counsel Vishal Gohain too said, ‘‘He was not diagnosed with cancer. He is only suffering from a prostate problem, which we thought could be serious.’’ Because of his old age and ill health, Delhi HC turned down cop’s plea to conduct a narco test on Ghandy. In their 700-page chargesheet filed in a Delhi court, police said that after Ghandy’s arrest, state-wise bandhs were announced by Maoists in Chhattisgarh and Andhra on October 1 and 3 last year, and that they were in possession of the pamphlets distributed by Maoists regarding the bandhs. Police claimed Ghandy was in the know of the Naxalites’ plot to abduct and behead police inspector Francis Induwar in Jharkhand last year.
Following the threat of urban terrorism, Delhi Police officers are also being made to undergo a training programme in Naxalite strategy and urban terrorism at the National Police Academy in Hyderabad. ‘‘The decision was taken by home ministry. Senior police officers from Naxalite infested areas are sensitized about the ultras’ modus operandi. The training was started last year and Delhi cops are also being made part of the module due to increasing movement of Naxalites in the capital,’’ said an official from the ministry.
The accusations that are flying in West Bengal over the Sildah massacre recall a passage in the memoirs of Mohit Sen, the son of a Calcutta High Court judge who joined the Communist Party of India. He says that Mr Ranjit Gupta, one of the last of British India’s IP officers, was “a strong sympathiser” of the CPI and kept it informed in the late-1940s of official plans for “a crackdown”.
Mr Gupta, now an ageing and ailing man, retired long ago as West Bengal’s Director-General of Police. As Kolkata’s Police Commissioner in the late-1960s and early-1970s, he acquired fame — some say notoriety because of the methods that were used — for liquidating the Naxalites. Sen received Mr Gupta’s secret information and passed it on to the radical historian Susobhan Sarkar “resulting in almost all the top leaders of the CPI escaping by going underground” when the “crackdown” came in 1948.
Incidentally, Indrajit Gupta’s “underground” was my grandmother’s flat in south Kolkata. He lived there comfortably — my grandmother was his aunt — while the police supposedly searched high and low with a warrant for his arrest. His brother, another Ranjit Gupta, but of the ICS, was then West Bengal’s Home Secretary.
My reason for dredging up this minutiae is to illustrate the interconnectivity that can bind those charged with upholding the law and those beyond its pale. The Gupta-Sen-Sarkar nexus highlighted the power of class ties. They came from similar upper middle-class backgrounds, had gone to English-medium schools and the same college. Mixing in the same social set, they were what Lady Thatcher called “people like us”. There are people like us at all levels, bound by similarly strong ties of kinship and friendship.
At the height of the Naxalite troubles a much younger and fitter I accompanied a Rajput regiment on a combing operation in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, tramping precariously along the sodden narrow ridge between waterlogged paddyfields night after night. It was a lark for the jawans and their officer. Even the local magistrate strode gamely along with a walking stick. But the bedraggled policemen accompanying us unceasingly whined about the hardship like petulant children being unfairly punished, and talked bitterly among themselves at the top of their voices, despite warnings to be less noisy, of the military deliberately victimising them because they were Bengali.
I thought it was Bengali lyricism when they burst into Rabindrasangeet before dawn broke. But, no, as a light flashed in the distant dark, to be repeated in a clump of trees a hundred yards away, I realised the singing (like the loud talking) was to warn Naxalites lurking in the outlying huts. I was told of the police confiscating a gun from a jotedar’s house and the sequel that very night of a band of Naxalites turning up to demand the ammunition.
Collusion was common in those days. It might still be. Birbhum’s policemen were locally recruited; the Naxalites were also local youth. Commonalty may also have been a factor in West Midnapore. It wouldn’t have been easy otherwise for 50 Maoists in an SUV, a pick-up truck and a fleet of six motorcycles to raid the Eastern Frontier Rifles camp in the heart of a crowded township. The surrounding shopkeepers obviously knew what was afoot for they made themselves scarce. Someone had tipped them off. Who?
Despite their murders, no one treats the Maoists as untouchable. Mr Susanta Ghosh, a CPI(M) Minister from West Midnapore, is believed to have taken their help to defeat the Trinamool Congress-BJP alliance in Keshpur in 2000. Ms Mamata Banerjee made common cause with them in Nandigram and Jangalmahal (covering West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts), and even sported Maoist supporters in her rumbustious entourage at Singur when she foiled the Tata people’s car project.
Many villagers even regard the “Bon (Jungle) Party”, as they call Maoists, as their saviour. Maoist cadre have dug wells, built roads and dams, and set up health centres in remote areas, earning the gratitude of neglected villagers who have reason to complain of police atrocities.
As with the Naxalites, some Maoists started in the Marxist ranks and then moved further into extremism, drawn by the lure of prairie fires, liberated zones (muktanchal), the countryside encircling cities and other fancy theories borrowed from abroad. Many are plain bandits. Others, Dalits and Adivasis, are fighting for class and community rights. Bihar’s policemen and landlords have long dubbed any landless peasant who demands the minimum wage a Naxalite.
Sildah confirmed that West Bengal’s police are corrupt, cowardly and physically unfit. The political and administrative system they serve is equally uninspiring. While politicians and policemen blame each other for the carnage, senior police officers also accuse one another of the negligence and bad planning that played into the Maoists’ hands. The Sildah camp had no watchtowers or sandbag barricades. Townspeople strolled in freely to use its toilet. As Maoist attacks continue, other badly planned police camps are hastily being dismantled.
Security could not be more casual. Intelligence reports are ignored. The Rs 400-crore development package announced last year for Jangalmahal has been forgotten. Talk of Andhra-style Greyhound commandos, STRACO (State Special Combat Force) and COBRA (Combat Battalion for Resolute Action) is as ineffective as Operation Green Hunt.
The firing episode outside Kolkata’s American Center was revealing. Far from shooting back, policemen locked themselves and their weapons inside their black van, leaving a hapless comrade outside to be shot dead. Sildah’s EFR jawans, mostly past their prime, were reportedly lounging about in mufti, smoking ganja, far from their weapons. Their commander was one of the first to scramble over the wall and escape. As the Brigadier heading the Counter-Terrorism and Jungle Warfare school in Kanker, Chhattisgarh, puts it, “Pot-bellied policemen who can barely walk 400 metres with a gun cannot be expected to match the guerrillas who can walk 40 kilometres through the jungle at night.”
Though West Bengal turned down a Central policing offer in 1990, its security is not safe in Kolkata’s hands. Whatever the Constitution stipulates and however great the hurt to Left Front sensibilities, this is a responsibility that New Delhi cannot shirk. That would mean surrender to what the Maoist leader, Koteswar Rao, also known as Kishenji, calls with a wicked sense of humour Operation Peace Hunt.
India's Naxalite insurgency
Not a dinner party
India’s Maoist guerrillas carry out two slaughters, then offer a truce
Feb 25th 2010 | PHULWARI | From The Economist print edition
SHORTLY before midnight on February 17th residents of Phulwari, a village in India’s northern state of Bihar, were roused by gunfire, explosions and a shrieking mob. It was led by a few of the Maoist guerrillas encamped on a wooded ridge outside the village. Wearing camouflage-green uniforms, they carried assault rifles and explosives. Around 100 rival villagers, of the locals’ own Kora tribe, came with them, with bows and arrows and a few small children.
Peeping from his mud hut, Kashi, a middle-aged tribal, considered loosing off a few retaliatory arrows, dipped in poison. “But there were too many,” he recalled this week, standing beside the heap of fine, grey ashes that was his home. His aunt and nephew were incinerated inside it. Kashi’s brother—their husband and father—was shot dead while trying to flee with him. In all, 12 villagers were killed that night and around 30 houses destroyed.
The destruction was selective. Most of Phulwari’s mud-and-thatch dwellings are untouched. Scattered patches of ash show where some families were singled out. Why is unclear. The villagers, most of whom have now left Phulwari, say they had angered the Maoists by refusing to donate a man or woman per household to them. But there is a rumour that, maybe after the guerrillas raped a woman, some villagers killed eight Maoists with their arrows. Kashi says he was among them; then retracts. “We are very scared,” he says.
That is understandable. The guerrillas are believed to have moved into Jharkhand state, across the wooded ridge, but may return. The state police, 30 of whom have been deployed to Phulwari, are little deterrent. A nervous-looking lot, they are no match for Maoist marauders toting weapons stolen from (or sold by) their peers. Constable Arvind Kumar, pot-bellied and with an inveterate slouch to show for his 18 years in uniform, says he has practised firing his rifle on only three occasions.
Nor is this force likely to remain in Phulwari long. With 50,000 policemen for a population of around 100m—or 50 per 100,000—Bihar has one of the most overstretched forces in India. It is also, despite great recent improvements in its policing, one of the most criminal states: plagued by kidnappers, as well as an insurgency that to some degree affects 23 of its 38 districts.
Yet the Maoists are much stronger elsewhere. Boasting an estimated 14,000 full-time guerrillas, and many more semi-trained sympathisers, they loosely control tracts of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. They have also overrun a smaller, but spreading, area of West Bengal, where the Maoist struggle began in 1967—in the village of Naxalbari, from which the guerrillas, or Naxalites, take their name. On February 15th the Maoists stormed a camp, killing 24 Bengali police. The government estimates that they have influence in over a third of India’s 626 districts, with 90 seeing “consistent violence”. According to the Institute for Conflict Management, in Delhi, the insurgency cost 998 lives in eight states last year—compared with 377 lost in the better-known conflict in Kashmir.
The government in Delhi is alarmed. Its home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, has promised to deploy an additional 15,000 centrally trained police to the six most affected states by April—taking their number to around 75,000 in all. He has also badgered the state governments to make more aggressive use of them. They have done so, but splutteringly. Operations in the southern part of West Bengal have mainly underlined that the insurgency is more entrenched there than was previously thought. The state’s main opposition Trinamul Congress party, a member of the coalition government in Delhi, has meanwhile criticised the anti-Naxalite operations. A state election is due next year and it may be looking for electoral support from the Maoists, of a kind that helped bring Jharkhand’s ruling party to power last year. On February 21st Jharkhand’s chief minister, Shibu Soren, promised to end operations against the insurgents and “accept their justified demands”.
This adds up to rather less than the sweeping offensive reported by India’s press. But it seems to have put the wind up the Naxalites. Responding to an invitation from Mr Chidambaram for talks, their military chief, Koteswara Rao, known as Kishenji, was reported this week to have offered the government a 72-day truce, from February 25th. Mr Chidambaram appeared underwhelmed. He issued a fax number for the Maoists to send him their promise to abjure violence and enter talks, with “no ifs, no buts and no conditions.” But if the Maoists show willing, the government will find it hard to refuse them.
Yet the prospects for a negotiated end to the conflict look poor. The Naxalites claim to be fighting for better treatment of marginalised tribals; but deny the government access to areas they control. Nor do their leaders appear to harbour democratic ambitions. They are scathing of their Maoist cousins in Nepal—to whom they have no close link—for having quit the jungle and contested elections in 2008.
For the moment, moreover, despite reports of factionalism, the Maoists’ influence is growing. By “taxing” companies drawn to east India’s rich coal and metal deposits, they are also getting rich. “You will not find any businessman who has been attacked,’ says Ajit Doval, a former head of India’s Intelligence Bureau, “only poor tribals and policemen.”
Ending the red terror
It is time India got serious about the Maoist insurgency in its eastern states
Feb 25th 2010 | From The Economist print edition
SINCE 2006, when Manmohan Singh described the Maoist insurgency as the “single biggest internal-security challenge” India had ever faced, it has spread rapidly. Maoist guerrillas are now active in over a third of India’s 626 districts, with 90 seeing “consistent violence”. Last year the conflict claimed 998 lives. This month alone the Maoists—or Naxalites, as they are known—slaughtered 24 policemen in West Bengal and 12 villagers in Bihar (see article). Yet neither official concern at the highest level nor continuing horrific violence have prompted a concerted and coherent strategy for dealing with the insurgency. It is time for the government to devise one.
Mr Singh may have overstated the security threat to the Indian state; but not the damage to Indian society. The government has faced bloodier threats, on its borders: from separatists in Punjab in the 1980s and in Kashmir and the north-east still. But the Kashmir valley has only 5m people, Manipur, most troubled of the north-eastern states, only 2.5m; Naxalites are scattered among 450m of India’s poorest people, feeding on the grievances of tribal inhabitants of eastern and central India against what is all too often a cruel, neglectful and corrupt administration. This makes the Naxalites hard to treat in the way that India has treated its other insurrections: as military threats to be dealt with by force—often brutally so.
Even recognising that, the official response to Mr Singh’s wake-up call from the governments of the affected Indian states has been dismal. None has much improved its overstretched, ineffectual police force. Besides bureaucratic incompetence and inertia, there are three main reasons for this inaction. First, state-level politics can play a pernicious role. The government in Jharkhand, for example, owed its election last year partly to Maoist support, and has been loth to fight them.
Second, the central government, a coalition run by the Congress party, must share the blame. It is not enough for Mr Singh, guru-like, to point the way. The strong leadership required to mobilise resources, public opinion and state governments for a long and difficult campaign has been lacking. Little has been done to bolster the central government’s own paramilitary force, an important back-up to the state police. Nor has the government done much to badger the states into adopting whole-heartedly a scheme to devolve power to local councils. Yet where this has been tried it has weakened the Maoists’ grip.
Encouragingly, Palaniappan Chidambaram, India’s home minister, does seem ready to get to grip with the issue, giving it a new priority in the central government’s policies. But he has not enunciated a clear strategy either—perhaps for good reason. The third big obstacle to dealing with the Naxalites is that no one is really sure how to. A minority, citing the success of strong-arm tactics in, for example, Punjab, wants a massive counter-Naxalite onslaught. This would be politically unimaginable and probably futile. A bigger group argues that development, to salve tribal hurts, is the only solution. Yet that, in the most undeveloped parts of India, will take years.
Wars without end
The right approach is to focus on improving both policing and general administration. Better policing would protect poor people from Naxalite bandits and extortionists. Better local administration, providing roads, water, schools and health care, would give a stake in the Indian state to people who at present have none. It would be a huge task anywhere in India, and especially in areas plagued by Naxalites. Yet the alternative is a potentially endless conflict that causes untold human suffering, further marginalises millions of India’s poorest citizens and deters investment in some of its most mineral-rich areas.
India has a remarkable ability to wage long-running low-intensity wars without their causing a sense of national outrage or panic. Outrage and action—if not panic—are now overdue. Naxalism is already more than four decades old, and India’s recent rapid economic growth, concentrated in urban, western and southern areas, is spawning new grievances to sustain it. If not tackled urgently, the insurgency could stunt the prospects for millions of people for a generation.