Friday, April 24, 2009

Shut out by Maoist terror

- Palamau, Latehar, Garhwa hit hard
SUMAN K. SHRIVASTAVA


Ranchi, April 24: Over 35 lakh residents of Palamau, Latehar and Garhwa have been forced to remain indoors, having been cut off from the rest of the state for the last three days after Maoists called an indefinte bandh from April 22.

With virtually no vehicles plying, supply of essentials like milk and LPG have been suspended. The railways are running three morning trains from Daltonganj, but there are no passengers. Even banks have downed shutters.

With the state machinery — Jharkhand is under President’s rule — preoccupied with the elections till yesterday, the police haven’t been able to pay attention to the Maoist-hit districts.

Inspector-general of police Rezi Dungdung, who rushed to Latehar today, however, said the police were trying to ensure life got back to normal as soon as possible.

“I have asked superintendents of police of Latehar, Garhwa and Palamau to ensure movement of vehicles on roads by providing escorts on trucks and buses,” he said.

Governor Syed Sibtey Razi’s adviser T.P. Sinha, who holds charge of the home department, also said efforts were on to restore normalcy in the districts.

The Maoist bandh was to demand compensation of Rs 10 lakh each to the next of kin of the five villagers killed in Barhania in Latehar in the aftermath of a Maoist landmine blast that killed two CRPF men.

But today, the Bihar-Jharkhand eastern regional bureau committee of the CPI(Maoist), heightened the prevailing sense of fear and uncertainty by issuing a statement claiming it had not called an indefinite bandh in the first place.

“We called a bandh only on April 22 to seek justice for the five killed by the CRPF,” said Animesh, a spokesman for the outfit. The news release issued by one Abhayji calling for an indefinite bandh, he claimed, was fake and was aimed at creating a rift within Maoist ranks.

But for the people it has been a harrowing week leading up to the elections. Mahendra Prasad Gupta, a Latehar businessman, said the administration had failed them. “The Maoists often created terror, but it is the duty of the administration to counter it and instil confidence among people,” he said.

Shatrughan Ojha, a social activist from Daltongunj, said his son was to appear for an interview for management courses at XISS, Ranchi. “He risked his life to go to Ranchi on a bike. We have virtually been taken hostage,” he lamented.

There were very few passengers on the three morning trains running on the CIC section from Daltonganj.

The night trains — Hatia-Jammu Tawi and Ranchi-Benaras Inter city — have been diverted.

Inspector-general Dungdung also cleared the air about the death of the five villagers in Barhania and ruled out a fake encounter. “They weren’t Naxalites. Nor did they have any rebel links. The extremists forced them to accompany them at 5.30 am to trigger the landmines,” he said, adding that two CRPF constables could not have dared to enter their village and shoot them after the landmine blast.

He said there was no reason to doubt the post-mortem report which claimed that four of the villagers were killed in a landmine blast while one sustained bullet injuries from a distance.

“We will submit a report to the government, which will take a decision on whether to categorise them as Naxalite victims and give their families compensation of Rs 1 lakh,” Dungdung said.

Home secretary J. B. Tubid said the state was looking at it with an open mind. “We can only assure people that we will provide full security to them. We will be holding an inquiry into the Barhania incident,” he told The Telegraph.

Asked if the state intelligence failed to alert the police authorities, the home secretary said he could not share intelligence inputs with the press.

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