HOMELAND SECURITY: Murderers hunt in police cloth – Maoists kill four using chilling ploy – Chilling lesson for Bengal, The Siliguri Corridor or The Gorkhas ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Shilda, May 14: Maoists in battle fatigues posed as a security patrol to gain CPM supporters’ trust in a West Midnapore village last night, led four men out and shot them dead in a tactic that could make sitting ducks of unwary populations anywhere.
This morning, Chandabila residents found the four bloodstained bodies, hands tied behind their backs, laid out a short distance from one another across the middle of a road 10km from the village. The posters left beside them declared that these “police informers” had been “punished by a people’s court”.
The killings raised fears that the ploy could be replicated elsewhere, especially since battle fatigues — the camouflage gear worn by security forces, especially during jungle warfare — are easily available and may allow wearers to carry weapons without being challenged.
The police had no answers, with West Midnapore superintendent of police Manoj Verma merely confirming that there is no law against people wearing battle fatigues and Jhargram SP Praveen Tripathi stating the obvious: “The Maoists killed these men just to create panic.”
His boss, Bengal director-general of police Bhupinder Singh, made a less obvious claim: the Maoists were on a killing spree because they were “cornered”.
CPM worker Nazrul Mir, 42, and party supporters Ashok Ahir, 36, his brother Sanatan, 38, and Swapan Ahir were all shot through the head. Nazrul was a small-time cattle trader and the other victims were day labourers in a village of mostly poor people living in mud-walled houses with thatched or tiled roofs.
Chandabila, about 7km from Shilda town
where Maoists had massacred 24 Eastern Frontier Rifles jawans in February, is a CPM pocket on the turf of the rebel-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, and looked on security force patrols as its friends.
Gopinath Singh, 45, a labourer, said the villagers were woken up around 11.30 by the sound of heavy footfall on dry earth followed by loud knocks on the doors of some homes.
He saw 30 to 35 people in camouflage outfits, many carrying rifles. “As they wore uniforms that we are used to seeing every day, we did not suspect them,” Singh said.
Nor did Ashok or Sanatan, said their mother Khadubala, 75. Nor did Nazrul.
“My husband opened the door to find people wearing dresses used by the police and CRPF who regularly patrol the area,” said Nazrul’s wife Basera Bibi, 35.
“They said they had come from (the local) Binpur police station and asked him to accompany them. My husband followed them but I became scared and asked, ‘Where are you taking him?’ They said, ‘Don’t worry, your husband would be back tomorrow morning’.”
A relative of Basera was among the first to see the bodies around 7.30am today, on the Shilda-Bankura Road that cuts through Etela forest.
“This is the handiwork of Maoists. We believe there were about 20 guerrillas accompanied by residents of neighbouring villages who identified the homes of the victims. We are searching for them,” SP Tripathi said.
The Maoists today held a West Midnapore bandh to protest the alleged arrest of squad member Soma Mandi and press for her production in court.
DGP Singh said: “Their bandh has seen no response. They are under pressure to make their presence felt. They are feeling cornered and so they are killing innocent people.”
A fifth man, a 62-year-old CPM branch committee member in Purulia’s Arsa, fell to suspected Maoists’ bullets last night.
A group of 30 dragged farmer Sukanta Mahato out of his home in Pathardih village, tied his hands and feet and shot him twice about 300 metres from his house, sources said. Posters the killers left behind proclaimed Mahato a “police informer”.
Sonia nuances approach – when will India and Bengal ever learn to understand the root causes, myopic parochialism ?!!
BY SANJAY K. JHA
New Delhi, May 14: Sonia Gandhi has said “the root causes of Naxalism” should be addressed along with decisive and forceful responses to “acts of terror”, articulating the need for a holistic approach at a time the Congress is debating the sagacity of the “action-first” line associated with home minister P. Chidambaram.
“Our country is facing an enormous challenge from the Naxalites. While we must address acts of terror decisively and forcefully, we have to address the root causes of Naxalism. The rise of Naxalism is a reflection of the need for our development initiatives to reach the grassroots, especially in our most backward tribal districts,” the Congress president said in a letter to party workers in the latest issue of its organ, the Sandesh.
The critics of the line tied to Chidambaram lapped up her letter, claiming they were asking for such an articulation in place of “the wipe-them-out” rhetoric. The reference to the “root causes” does reflect an opinion within the Congress that favours a nuanced approach.
However, by using phrases such as “acts of terror” and words like “decisively” and “forcefully”, Sonia has sought to ensure that her opinion is not construed as a show of no-confidence in Chidambaram’s approach which has the full backing of influential voices in the government.
The “wipe-them-out” line was taken by the party itself; the official spokesperson made that demand in the wake of the Dantewada massacre in which 75 CRPF jawans were killed.
Although the tough posturing was hailed by the BJP and the CPM, dissenting voices emerged from within the Congress.
The debate mirrors the differences between what came to be known as the “wets and dries” when Margaret Thatcher was in power in Britain. If the Iron Lady had to contend with “wets” — those in her Tory government who opposed her line and supported policies like increased public spending — the Congress has its own share of “liberals”.
Leaders like Digvijay Singh, Ajit Jogi, K. Keshava Rao and Mani Shankar Aiyar have openly expressed their concerns on the stress on police action.
While Digvijay talked of Chidambaram’s “rigidity” and “intellectual arrogance”, Keshava Rao said the problem was of “perception” as the battle could not be fought without winning over the tribal population.
Two schools of thought exist on what prompted these lieutenants to speak out. One believes that they would not have spoken out without the tacit approval of the party leadership that may have wanted to test the waters. The other feels that these leaders were trying to curry favour with the leadership, hoping to appeal to Sonia’s well-known inclination for inclusiveness.
Sonia has now somewhat revealed her mind; she has supported tough action but sought to alter the discourse to send out a message that the government is responsive, not hostile.
This is the fine distinction, some Congress leaders said, the home ministry could not project even as the security establishment agreed on the need for development.
Sonia had wholeheartedly supported Chidambaram when he was giving his reply in the Lok Sabha, indicating that she did not intend to weaken the government’s resolve.
The slightly different tenor and content of her communication with the party workers cannot be taken as a condemnation of the government’s administrative actions.
Sources admitted there were misgivings about the home ministry’s packaging of the approach but said there was no fundamental difference or contradiction between the party and the government.
Chidambaram, too, had said that the government had not lost sight of the socio-economic aspect but asserted that development was not possible without clearing the areas held by the Naxalites.
Replying to the debate in Parliament, he had said: “Don’t think the adversary will let you do development. They target infrastructure, they target schools and communication towers.”
Double blow: bad fortnight in office for PC team – Bengal too obstinate to listen to reason, wants to unconstitutionally bifurcate a secular Darjeeling ?!!
BY ARCHIS MOHAN
New Delhi, May 14: The P. Chidambaram-led home ministry has suffered a series of reverses in the past fortnight.
The Gorkhaland talks have floundered and the stand-off between Nagaland and Manipur over Naga leader Thuingaleng Muivah’s proposed visit to his ancestral village in Manipur continues. The list of failures would become longer if one includes last Saturday’s Naxalite attack in Chhattisgarh that left eight jawans dead.
But more than the ministry’s inadequacies on the Naxalite front, its inability to resolve political crises has come into focus.
The most glaring is the situation on the Nagaland-Manipur border — something of the ministry’s own making.
“Law and order and maintenance of public order are state subjects. The Centre cannot steamroller state governments into accepting its diktats,” said a senior ministry official. But it is a weak defence. The Centre’s interlocutor for the Naga talks, R.S. Pandey, and senior ministry officials had acceded to Muivah’s wish to visit his village and promised to facilitate the travel.
But they got a rude shock when Manipur chief minister Ibobi Singh refused to play ball, even as Muivah camped on the border. Ibobi did not relent despite intervention from Chidambaram. It was surprising the ministry failed to anticipate the opposition.
In the ensuing violence between Manipur police and Muivah’s supporters, two persons died and many were injured. Even now, Muivah’s supporters continue an economic blockade of Manipur, creating a scarcity of essential commodities in the state.
Union home secretary G.K. Pillai’s visit to the two states on Tuesday and Wednesday failed to resolve the impasse.
At a meeting of the Congress core committee today, the majority of members felt that the home ministry had mishandled the crisis, sources said. Some leaders said the ministry had miscalculated in giving its assent to Muivah’s plan to visit his ancestral village without consulting the Manipur government.
Others said the ministry should have calculated the risks instead of sending Pillai to the two states for damage control.
The BJP, which had supported Chidambaram when he had offered to resign after the Dantewada massacre, said the minister’s “unilateralism” was evident during the Nagaland-Manipur crisis.
The episode has negated the gains of the peace talks between the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), which Muivah leads, and painted Delhi as “double-crossers” in the Nagas’ eyes.
Even the Gorkhas have started criticising the Centre after the collapse of the May 11 official-level talks in New Delhi. Earlier, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders had met Chidambaram on April 9 and his junior minister Ajay Maken a day later. They had implored the ministers to speak to the Bengal government and negotiate their territorial claims for the interim authority — inclusion of the Dooars, Terai and Siliguri areas under it.
But the ministry advised them to strive for a political consensus with the Trinamul Congress and the CPM on their demand. The Bengal government and the state’s parties want to discuss the issue of territory only after next year’s Assembly polls.
The Morcha said it would pull out of talks for the interim set-up and revive the demand for a Gorkhaland.