Monday, April 06, 2009

Cops sore over red den rallies

- Candidates ignore alerts, keep law-enforcers on tenterhooks
AMIT GUPTA

There was lack of activity at the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha office at Sarkar Building in Sakchi on Sunday. Campaigning is likely to pick up steam from Monday. Telegraph picture
Ranchi, April 5: State police have advised poll candidates not to venture out into far-flung Maoist-hit rural areas for campaigning without keeping them informed.

Apparently upset at a few instances of high-profile politicians and candidates venturing into Maoist dens in the rural hinterlands, the police are framing a strict advisory for poll nominees and have also decided to voice their concern with the Election Commission.

“This is very disturbing for us. There have been at least four to five instances when high-profile politicians who face a security risk ventured inside these areas without informing the local police,” said state police spokesperson Satya Narayan Pradhan, but refused to divulge who the leaders were.

“We have had to rush police teams at least four times after coming to know about the presence of these politicians in those areas,” he said, adding that all district superintendents of police had been asked to apprise candidates accordingly.

Maoist dens are understood to be primarily concentrated in Palamau, Chatra in the western part of Jharkhand, Giridih and parts of Koderma in the north and some areas of Singhbhum in the south.

Among those contesting from Palamau — some of whom may have begun campaigning — were JD(U)’s Radha Krishna Kishore, former BJP MP Brajmohan Ram (contesting as an Independent this time), MP Ghuram Ram and Kameshwar Baitha.

The Chatra nominees were former Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari (contesting as an Independent), RJD’s Nagmani, CPI(ML)’s Keshwar Yadav and Dhirendra Agarwal among others.

Camping in Naxalite-affected Chainpur block of the Palamau constituency, JD(U)’s Kishore disagreed it was dangerous for them to campaign in rural areas. “We do not see a problem in going to rural areas at least in the day time. We take precautions but we can’t afford to ignore far-flung rural areas while campaigning,” he told The Telegraph.

Over the years, several state politicians have been victims of ultra-Left terror. JMM’s former Jamshedpur MP Sunil Mahto, CPI(ML)’s former Bagoder MLA Mahendra Singh, and former Tamar MLA Ramesh Singh Munda, the son of former chief minister Babulal Marandi, were among those who had fallen to Maoist violence.

The killings happened both in far-flung rural areas as well as the suburbs — Munda was killed in Bundu even though he had armed bodyguards.

Pradhan said if the police had prior information about a politician’s plans, they could carry out a sanitisation drive to flush out criminals and Naxalite elements from the area.

In the run-up to the general elections — scheduled to take place in Jharkhand in two phases on April 16 and April 23 — Maoists gave enough hints that they might disturb the polling processes even though they haven’t issued a poll boycott call.

In fact, two former hardcore rebels were contesting elections this time. While Kameshwar Baitha was contesting on a JMM ticket from Palamau — he has over 55 criminal cases against him — CPI(ML) had fielded Keshwar Yadav, alias Ranjan Yadav, alias Dinkar, from Chatra — he faces over a dozen cases.

So far, Maoists have been making their presence felt fairly regularly.

In March, over 50 armed rebels blew up a village community centre in Bokaro district, barely 15km from where BJP MP Hema Malini addressed a public meeting the next day.

Moreover, a portion of a school building, a designated polling station, at Banalat village in Bishunpur in Gumla was blown up by powerful explosives.

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