Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cops use Press stickers to evade Maoists

Sukumar Mahato, TNN 23 July 2009, 05:00am IST

DHARAMPUR: The stress of the battle for Lalgarh is proving to be too much for a section of police officers posted there. Desperate to avoid a Maoist
strike, they are using everything from vehicles with Press stickers to ambulances to move around the forested terrain.

For example, during the Maoist-sponsored bandh on Wednesday, police supplied food and essential items to the Dharampur and Gohamidanga police camps in an ambulance. "Some officers are using Press and other stickers like patient', LIC' and BSNL'. This is increasing the risk for vehicles sporting authentic stickers," said a constable. "Some senior officers have gathered stacks of these stickers and are using them after removing the police tag from vehicles. There are at least 12 four-wheelers with such stickers. They are even changing number plates to prevent identification."

Another policeman said, "Our seniors are taking off stars and other identification marks from their uniforms and are moving around as constables and homeguards. They are moving with us as they know fully well that Maoists generally target only higher-ranked officers."

Sujan Singha of Gohamidanga said, "Policemen are seen working here from 7 am to 3 pm and Maoists-backed PCPA leaders have identified some four-wheelers used by the officers. People are scared as police stop patrolling the villages after 3 pm."

Another constable from North 24-Parganas alleged, "We have no training in firing tear-gas shells or automatic rifles, but the seniors are forcing us to carry SLR rifles and tear-gas guns. Some aged constables have been sent for duty here, which violates a police department order. The order clearly states that only policemen below 40 years of age were to be sent. We have some constables here between 50 and 55 years."

With every passing day, the murmurs of protest are growing louder among the rank and file. "This might spark a revolt. Our superiors had told us that we would be on duty here for a maximum of two weeks, but we've already spent a month in this hostile terrain. The money we had has also been running low."

Why were Maoists and PCPA workers still roaming freely in the area? A CRPF jawan had a unique reply. "Actually, we came here to provide protection to the policemen. There's not much else for us to do," he said.

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