Saturday, August 08, 2009

Maoists: A vicious circle

;Statesman News Service

BHUBANESWAR, 7 AUG: Maoists belonging to the Dandakaranya zonal division who intermingle with those operating in Chhattisgarh, which has become a ‘manufacturing industry’ for hardcore criminal Naxals, are trying to establish a corridor to Andhra Pradesh through Malkangiri, Nawarangpur and Koraput districts of Orissa.
Providing an elaborate picture of the Maoist menace, movement and strength in Orissa, Mr Prakash Mishra, IPS, director of intelligence, said that the Maoists at many places like Chitrakonda, Narayanpatna etc have the total support of tribals. In these areas, the police face a few armed cadres and an entire tribal population is used as human shield, he observed, explaining the enormity and complexity of the problem, particularly when keeping human right issues in mind.
The state is sandwiched ~ Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, AP and West Bengal are all infested ~ and Maoists shift from one place to another and take quick decisions by splitting into self-reliant groups, he noted.
Till the early nineties Orissa felt this was an Andhra Pradesh centric problem despite the fact that AP was keen that Orissa should take up counter-insurgency measures.
The Maoists are capable of engaging in positional battles in districts like Malkangiri whereas they are in a guerilla stage in districts of Jajpur, Keonjhar and Dhenkanal, he noted. Angul, Boudh, Kalahandi, Nuapada districts are presently areas where the Maoists are in what is known as a perspective stage as they are currently holding meetings, raising small local issues, punishing corrupt employees and indulging in publicity.
“It is a vicious circle - underdevelopment breeds naxals and because of the presence of naxals development cannot take place,” said Mr Mishra while citing instances of how a bridge was essential in Chitrakonda but could not be achieved due to intense protesting.
No developmental work is allowed and agencies are scared of venturing into taking up road or bridge building activities. The way out is to make police stations the nodal places for developmental work, he added.
Mr Sanjeev Marik, IPS, IGP (Operations) elaborated on the various Maoist divisions active in the state and the difficult terrain that poses problems in carrying out swift counter operations.
Mr YB Khurania and Mr Sanjeev Panda, both IPS officers posted in naxal infested districts, highlighted the complexities at the field level. They have started teaching children to hold guns and we will have to face such situations. The Juvenile Justice Act needs to be amended, noted Mr Panda. Women and children are the human shields, he noted.
Mr Khurania pointed at the case in Mayurbhanj where suspected naxals had been arrested. When the arrest was conducted nobody knew of their backgrounds or identity. It was much later that their naxal involvement was established but by then they had managed to obtain bail. It was only because the police impressed upon the lower court to seek local surety that they did not get out of jail. They were finally convicted, he said, but it had been a close call.
The present set of laws cannot deal with a war like situation or abnormal situation, he said.
The policemen and the naxals both give their versions of the operations and the police version is never believed, Mr Khurania furthered. There are no witnesses and we cannot detain a person for more than 24 hours, he said, while citing other difficulties. A suspect needs to be examined for a few days so as to elicit further information on the movement and presence of groups, but this is not done, he added.
Mr Khurania went on to pose questions concerning the human rights of the policemen, who are expected to work 24 hours in extremely trying circumstances. "Why can't their be shifts in a police station like in other 24 hour workplaces?" he asked. Special training, special laws and the strengthening of police stations - both in terms of manpower and infrastructure - is the need of the hour, concluded Mr Khurania.

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