Friday, June 19, 2009

Maoists pool in resources for Operation Lalgarh

19 Jun 2009, 0311 hrs IST, Sandeep Mishra & Sonali Das, TNN



BHUBANESWAR/RANCHI: Money from Jharkhand, weapons from Orissa, cadres from Chhattisgarh and leadership from Andhra Pradesh. The Maoists' strategy
seems to be clear. And the next big target for them is apparently the place where it had all started over four decades back: West Bengal.

If police well-versed with Naxalite operations are to be believed, the ongoing bloodletting at Lalgarh in West Bengal is part of a detailed plan to expand Maoist dominance. "As it appears, the Maoists have decided to revive violence in a big way in West Bengal. And might be thinking of creating a liberated zone' encompassing northern Orissa, parts of Jharkhand and Lalgarh and its neighbourhood in West Bengal, akin to the one they have been striving to set up in the southernmost parts of Orissa, parts of Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh," observed a senior police officer.

"In the latter case, the Maoists' presence is huge. While Abusmad in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh serves as the Maoist nerve centre, Malkangiri in Orissa and Khammam in AP are under in their grip," the officer said. "The extremists are strong in parts of Jharkhand and have stepped up their offensives in the Similipal forest area of Mayurbhanj and Sundargarh districts of Orissa. While Mayurbhanj borders West Bengal, Sundargarh borders parts of Jharkhand. By launching a series of attacks in Lalgarh, the ultras might be working on dominating an area spread over Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal. This is to some extent evident from the manner in which they are launching attacks in quick succession in different states possibly to prevent the policemen from helping their counterparts in other states," he added.

Take the example of Jharkhand. The spurt in violence over the past 10 days which saw 25 policemen killed and an almost equal number of weapons including Insas rifles and SLRs looted has raised suspicions that this was preparation for Operation Lalgarh.

Though Orissa Police is not sure about how Orissa-based Maoists are helping their counterparts in Lalgarh, sources said in all probability arms looted by extremists from the state could have found their way into Bengal. "The central committee of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) decided how the looted arms and ammunition is to be distributed. Over the past few years, the radicals' aim has been to loot maximum weapons and explosives from Orissa. Ergo, there is every possibility that those might have been sent to other states," sources in the know disclosed.

The ultras had in February 2004 looted the district armoury in Koraput district, while in February 2008, they took away around 1,100 arms and truckloads of ammunition from police establishments in Nayagarh district. Recently, the Maoists had looted large quantity of explosives from Nalco mines in the Damanjodi area of Koraput.

Jharkhand police say that the Maoist sphere of influence stretches across state borders and nothing can be gained by talking of Moaists from Bengal or Jharkhand. "It is naive to say that Maoists from Jharkhand have crossed over to spread violence in Lalgarh," said IG S N Pradhan. Pradhan was reacting to Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's statement that Maoists from Jharkhand were causing trouble in Bengal. "Is CPI(Maoist) leader in Belpahari, Rahulji, from Jharkhand?" he asked sarcastically.

Jharkhand Police says that the Maoist corridor stretches from Pashupati in Nepal to Tirupati down south. "The Nayagarh incident in Orissa shows how Maoists from all over the country had congregated to kill 13 policemen and a civilian in a gunbattle. The Maoists have a limited guerrilla cadre and whenever a full strength is needed, they get together from all over the country," police said.

In the last week of May, the Chakulia police in the Ghatshila subdivision of West Singbhum district, bordering Purulia and West Midnapore in Bengal, had to push back members of the Maoist-backed People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA). Police also detained 11 PCPA women's wing members after which hundreds of PCPA men, women and children with traditional arms lay siege close to the police station.

This was followed by a series of landmine blasts and ambushes,with the Maoists almost capturing the coal city of Phusro in Bermo block of Bokaro district, where they killed 10 policemen in a landmine blast and looted rifles. The killings continued at Goelkera in West Singbhum, Khunti and Palamu. With the Lalgarh operation beginning only days later, questions are being raised on whether the incidents here were a prelude to the final operation.

Jharkhand Police, however, is on the alert fearing a similar Lalgarh like operation in the state. Whenever there is pressure from the police on the Maoists in any of these states, they cross over to bordering states till the dust settles.

The Bengal-Jharkhand border is very porous and the entry point is Purulia-Bankura-Chakulia to downhill Pabra and Jamshedpur. Though police claim to have sealed these borders, the terrain hands the Maoists an advantage. "We are on alert and have posted forces on the border. We're also in touch with our counterparts in Bengal," said DGP V D Ram.

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