Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Maoist diktat to buses, taxis: Don’t take security personnel

Joseph John
A new diktat of the Maoists to bus and taxi operators, ordering them not to carry any security personnel or face consequences, has put the police in a tight spot with securitymen posted in the remote Naxal-infested tribal areas of Bastar finding it difficult to travel out of the region while proceeding on leave.


The rebels have been regularly searching vehicles plying on several routes in the remote Bijapur and Narayanpur districts to identify security personnel traveling to their hometowns in civilian dress.


Officials worry that these unarmed security personnel, who either travel alone or in small groups of two-three men, could become soft targets for the Naxalites. The situation is such that both bus operators as well as other passengers are scared when security personnel board the buses or taxis plying in the Naxalite areas of Bastar.


The impact of the Naxalite threat is more visible in Bijapur, Narayanpur and Dantewada districts, particularly on Bijapur-Konta, Narayanpur-Orchha and Bhanupratappur and Jagdalpur- Hyderabad routes.




“Bus and taxi operators are requesting us with folded hands not to board the vehicles, saying it would not only risk their lives but also that of other passengers. Many security personnel posted in the remote areas of Bijapur, Narayanpur and Dantewada districts are facing this problem. It’s taking more than two days to cover 100-150 km to reach Jagdalpur,” a police source said.


In one instance, sources said, security personnel had to alight from a bus at Narayanpur bus stand after its owner requested them not to travel. When they later boarded the same bus on the town outskirts, the driver and conductor refused to carry them and fled, leaving everyone stranded. In another incident, all other passengers refused to travel in a bus when security personnel boarded the vehicle.


A group of six security personnel, belonging to the CRPF and Chhattisgarh Armed Force, posted at Usroor in Bijapur district had to request police stations of areas between Bijapur and Jagdalpur for use of vehicles deployed on official duty to reach the divisional headquarters. It took them three days to reach the state capital from where they proceeded to their hometowns.


“Bus operators are scared after the Naxal diktat. Last week, the Maoist rebels hijacked a bus at gunpoint and took it to the forests. Before letting them off, both the driver and conductor were warned that their hands would be chopped off if any security personnel were found travelling in their bus. This incident has set off panic among the bus and taxi operators,” said a prominent bus service operator of Bastar.


Before proceeding on leave, security personnel too are taking precautions to evade the possibility of being identified by the rebels during journey. Apart from growing beard and avoiding haircut, they wear clothes and shoes similar to those normally used by the locals. Besides, they carefully hide their identity cards and all other materials, including travel warrants, to avoid being identified till they move out of the Naxalite area.


Inspector General of Police R K Vij, who is also the spokesman for the state police, said: “Naxalites have been searching vehicles even in the past. We are working on how to deal with such situations.”

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