Saturday, April 18, 2009
Hyderabad, April 18: A new chapter opened in the chequered three decade-old naxalite history of the State as the Maoists for the first time restrained from violence totally up to the first phase of polling on Thursday.
Senior police officers are, however, keeping their fingers crossed hoping that the record will be maintained till the end of the second phase on April 23. They said never in the past since 1985 mid-term elections did the State go through polls that were not affected by extremist violence in one way or the other. The naxalites targeted every election since 1985 claiming they did not trust democracy and even gave poll boycott calls.
Though the current elections have assumed a new dimension as the Maoists are believed to have synchronised their Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) with polls, their strategy was apparently not implemented in the State. The TCOC was generally carried out twice a year in December -- January and May/June -- by concentrating on attacks against enemy, particularly the police. The attacks are carried out in operations by large numbers of extremists.
Barring Andhra Pradesh, the Maoists have gone ahead with TCOC in all the naxalite-affected States in the last fortnight. They killed over 30 policemen and several civilians in Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Bihar during the period. Fifteen of them, including five polling staff, died in poll related incidents alone on Thursday.
On the contrary, Andhra Pradesh reported only a single incident on April 11 when Congress Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituency member Mamidi Chander Rao was threatened to resign from his post at G.K. Veedhi in Visakhapatnam district.
Andhra Pradesh was worst hit by naxalite violence in 1994 Assembly elections when 25 persons, including 15 policemen, were killed. These policemen and four other civilians died in landmine blasts in Karimnagar and Warangal districts. The next Assembly elections in 1999 saw the killing of Telugu Desam MLA P. Purshotham Rao in Sirpur Kagaznagar town of Adilabad and SP C. Umesh Chandra in Hyderabad.
Former Home Minister (TDP) A. Madhava Reddy was killed in a landmine blast by naxalites during the municipal elections in 2000 while TDP Parliamentary Party leader K. Yerran Naidu suffered injuries in a similar blast in Srikakulam in 2004 Assembly polls.
Local journalists speak in hushed tones about the shadowy Maoist outfits that hold the state machinery to ransom in vast swathes of Orissa, striking whenever they choose.
No one goes looking for them, one said. “They come looking for you.”
That once-a-year call is expected anytime after the elections. Journalists are blindfolded and taken to meet alleged leaders of these rebel groups that operate from the deep forests in the south. “It’s difficult to be certain whether the persons who meet us are the leaders of these Naxalite outfits,” a journalist said.
Little wonder then that the state government — which has no official or unofficial channel of communication with the rebels — does not know who to have a dialogue with.
“We would like them to return to the mainstream, but they have no clear-cut leadership. There are too many such outfits. Who do we invite to talks; who do we talk to?” Narendra Swain, the spokesperson for the ruling Biju Janata Dal, shrugged. “What makes it worse is that their cadres are mostly from Andhra, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.”
Several states, therefore, must be involved in any talks initiative. “After all, the problem of Naxalites affects all states that have huge forest areas, offering safe hideouts.”
The possibility, though, seems bleak with even the Prime Minister refusing to acknowledge Maoism as a socio-economic problem and referring to it as a “virus” that must be “eliminated”.
On Monday, the Maoists attacked the Nalco mine in Koraput, killing 11 jawans. During Thursday’s vote, they burnt polling stations, vehicles and voting machines, blocked roads to the booths and engaged the security forces in a gun battle. Then they vanished into the forests covering 24 of Orissa’s 30 districts.
The forests are a problem in more ways than one, Swain said. “The tough forest laws that ban felling have tied our hands. We can’t create industry without cutting forests (and freeing land), and without industry, there are no jobs. It’s a vicious circle.”
The sitting Kandhamal MP, Sujit Padhi of the Opposition Congress, said: “The state government lacks the political will to initiate a dialogue with them. It should at least find out what the Naxalites want.”
Swain admitted that state presence was minimal in Orissa’s underdeveloped south-west. The government has in its own way tried to secure land, forest and water rights for the tribals, he claimed, adding that a lot more needed to be done.
“There is no industry worth the name and the arable land is not enough for sustenance; so the impoverished people live mostly off forest produce,” he said. When the state tries to undertake any development, it fails to take off because of the Maoist threat.
“Huge finances are needed to change things. It can’t be done overnight.”
Swain said the state government had just nationalised 68 minor items of forest produce, such as honey and lac, to protect the tribals’ interests. “But again, who will buy what they collect from the forests?”
He claimed the government had allotted land to tribals wherever ownership was clear and kept projects off small forest rivers. Padhi said half the problem would be solved if the state sorted out the tribals’ and Dalits’ land settlement rights. “No one knows which plot of land belongs to tribals and which to non-tribals. This is creating social tension, prompting some to pick up the gun.”
The rebels had called for a poll boycott, with posters warning that those with indelible-ink marks on their index fingers risked losing their hands. The Maoists say the political process does not reflect the aspirations of the weak and the oppressed.“They are not completely wrong,” Padhi said. He blamed the state government. “A decade ago (about the time the BJD came to power) the problem was restricted to nine districts; now it has spread to 24 of the 30 districts.”
All these districts are in the south-west. Except for the developed coastal belt, the rest of the state appears affected by the problem. “The Naxalites are roaming openly in these areas and the scared policemen are going around in plain clothes,” Padhi said.
The Congress has a dedicated vote bank of minorities, tribals and the lower castes; but the other parties, deterred by the Maoist threat from a proper campaign, should be more worried.
The turnout was low on Thursday, partly perhaps because of the boycott call. But Padhi suggested two more reasons. One, Dalits traditionally voted before going to work and the Adivasis (tribals) after work in the evening. “With polling time cut by an hour because of the security threat, the voter turnout was bound to be low.”
Also, delimitation ended up confusing many uneducated voters about where their polling station was.
The Maoist-hit south-west of Orissa voted on April 16 in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The rest of the state votes on April 23
First Published : 18 Apr 2009 10:49:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 18 Apr 2009 02:49:21 PM IST
BHUBANESWAR: After attempting to disrupt the polling process, Maoists yesterday night made a failed bid at the security forces in MV 26 village under the Kalimela Police limits of Malkangiri district. The Special Operation Group (SOG) and Border Security Force, however, pushed them back by resorting to heavy fire.
The security forces had put up at a school in MV 26 village, located about 6 km from Kalimela where the incident occurred.
After the evening, the security personnel had put up at a school when Naxals tried to engage them in firing. However, the forces resorted to retaliatory firing using launchers and mortar bombs which prompted the ultras to flee the place.
During the day, Naxals had disrupted polls at four places by snatching EVMs and torching vehicles at four booths under Chitrakonda Assembly segment.
However, compared to Chhattisgarh and Bihar, the Naxal-affected districts of Orissa witnessed peaceful polling with stray incidents of violence.
‘‘Given the profile of Naxal presence in Orissa today, poll process could be termed peaceful. There were no casualties, no bloodshed in the affected areas including Malkangiri’’, said a police officer.
However, police continue to keep a watch on the Naxals a day after election in the district. Polling parties and electronic voting machines were to be airlifted from Padia, MV 79, MV 78 and cut-off areas of Kalimela. The Indian Air Force choppers were used for flying them back to the headquarters.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Why adivasis in insurgency-hit Koraput risk their lives to participate in the elections
Women at a polling booth in Laxmipur, Koraput.
Tied to a bamboo pole that seems to stretch to the sky, the red flag of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) flutters high above the hamlet of Ganjaipadar.
But draped all around it are green Biju Janata Dal flags, emblazoned with the party’s conch logo, and Congress posters extolling the virtues of nine-time Member of Parliament Giridhar Gamang.
Not a single police officer is visible in or around Ganjaipadar, but Maoist insurgents seem to be making no effort to enforce their call for an election boycott. By 10:00 a.m., 147 of 510 voters had exercised their franchise; the number had more than doubled by lunchtime.
Ganjaipadar lies in the cluster of adivasi hamlets around the village of Kotiya — the mountain bastion of the Maoist insurgency in Orissa’s troubled Koraput district.
For all practical purposes, Kotiya has disappeared from Orissa’s map. Buses stopped making the 26-kilometre journey from National Highway 43 years ago. Last year, Koraput district authorities gave up the effort to stop what remains of the road from dissolving into the red earth, after a contractor fled the area. Police officials in Koraput admit it has been months since they attempted to send patrols into the area.
Democracy and development
Why do large numbers of Kotiya villagers spend their time — and risk their lives — on participating in the democratic process as voters and party activists?
Kotiya is among the most impoverished regions in Orissa, but democracy seems to have part-delivered. Its residents have access to a functional primary school, which gives students an education — and, no less important, lunch. Kotiya has a rudimentary dispensary; its footpaths have been paved, and Indira Awas Yojana grants have enabled more than half of its 490 residents access to a weather-proof home.
Orissa government engineers have even stretched power cables across the mountains to Kotiya and — for a few hours every day — there are lights, among other things, for late-evening volleyball games played on the court built by the Gram Panchayat.
Most important of all, the local residents’ votes have brought a degree of food security. Most Kotiya families have access to cards which entitle them to 25 kilos of rice at Rs. 2 a kilo. In Ganjaipadar, the election campaign revolved around the fact that just 25 of 110 families had cards — a result of badly-framed rules and poor implementation.
“I’m voting,” says Kotiya resident Shakunta Hemla, “to show that I support the people who brought us cheap food.”
Learning from experience, insurgents have avoided confrontation with local politicians. Cadres of both the Congress and the Biju Janata Dal told this correspondent they had an arrangement with Maoists: no attacks would take place as long as no police personnel were brought into the Kotiya area. But in the face of other challenges, those that go beyond the provision of cheap food or municipal facilities, democracy isn’t doing quite so well.
Koraput is the advertisement for the new Orissa the State’s politicians have been working to create. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited operatives a massive facility that produces engines for Sukhoi and MiG combat jets. The National Aluminium Company Ltd. runs Asia’s largest alumina refinery here. Nearby, in the town of Jeypore, hotels are packed with British and Russian engineers who have come in to help develop new mining and industrial projects.
But the district’s residents have benefited relatively little from these investments. HAL, local politicians complain, refuses to conduct job examinations locally, while much of NALCO’s work goes to contractors from outside the region.
More important, industrial growth has done little to accelerate human development. Just 36.2 percent of the district’s 11,97,954 residents are literate; less than one in four women can read and write. Among adivasis, who make up just over half of the population, the literacy rate is estimated at just over 20 percent.
Put simply, the bulk of Koraput’s population has neither the education nor the capital needed to exploit the entrepreneurial opportunities that industrial growth is opening up. Koraput’s already-marginalised adivasi population, in particular, has little reason to look to the future with hope. Democracy needs to provide answers to the looming crisis — or could face defeat.
The decision comes a day after Maoists carried out attacks in different states that went to polls yesterday. The attacks had left at least 19 people dead and several security personnel injured.
Deployment of Central forces will be carried out in six Assembly constituencies that fall within the districts of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura by 22 April. The six Assembly constituencies where Central forces will be deployed in advance are Jahargram, Binpur, Bandwan, Balarampur,Bagmundi and Joypur.
West Bengal chief electoral officer, Mr Debashis Sen said: “Central forces will arrive in the state on 21 April and by 22 April they will be deployed in various Maoist-infested areas of the state.” He, however, clarified that no decision has been taken regarding Lalgarh where tribals have been resisting the entry of police.
“Other than Lalgarh, deployment of Central forces will also be carried out in 14 other police station areas that fall under these Assembly constituencies," the CEO said. A decision regarding Lalgarh will be taken after the Police Santras Birodhi Public Committee (PSBPC) leader, Mr Chatradhar Mahato takes a call on the Election Commission's offer to deploy Central forces in the affected areas of Lalgarh, EC officials said. Meanwhile, the CEO added that various confidence-building measures such as flag marches and setting up of quick response time units will also be initiated. “Sealing of state border will take place at least two days ahead of the poll,” Mr Sen said. n SNS
KOLKATA: In the wake of Maoist attacks during the first phase of polling on April 16, West Bengal on Friday announced measures to step up security and provide additional protection for polling personnel in the sensitive areas in the Maoist belt. Aerial surveillance is planned.
Chief Electoral Officer Debashis Sen announced the doubling of the compensation amount in the event of loss of life for polling personnel in the Maoist areas to Rs. 10 lakh. Flag marches would start from April 22 in the three affected districts of Purulia, Paschim Medinipur and Bankura.
Security personnel would visit houses to assure security to people and to encourage them come out and vote without fear.
Police deployment would be made in such a way that commando forces could be moved to any area at short notice. Vigilance had been stepped up along State borders in these districts. Meetings were proposed to coordinate security measures with the neighbouring States.
A company of paramilitary forces would be posted and adequate lighting arrangements made where the polling personnel would camp in the troubled areas.
Polling will be completed by 3 p.m. at six Assembly centres that are considered very sensitive: Jhargram, Binpur and Bandwan in the Jhargram constituency, and Balarampur, Bagmundi and Jaipur in the Purulia Lok Sabha constituency. Polling here is on April 30, in the first phase of polling in West Bengal.
State government officials who met on Thursday to discuss additional measures decided to ask the Centre for 40 more companies of forces, to be deployed on priority basis in these areas and in North Bengal.
KOLKATA: A crack bomb disposal squad of the Orissa state police arrived at Nalco’s Damanjodi mines on Friday to scan the area following last
Sunday’s daring Maoist attack.
The delay in the squad’s arrival, which has been busy providing poll security across Orissa on Thursday, will set back resumption of mining operations disrupted for already a week.
Nalco, which produces nearly 4.8 million tonnes of bauxite annually, now hopes to start operations at its mines only on Sunday, if the bomb squad completes its job on Saturday and declares the mines area ‘safe’.
“The state police’s bomb disposal squad arrived at noon on Friday and swung into action. They have brought along a squad of sniffer dogs. The team is combing buildings, equipment and roads across a 14 sq km area,” a top Nalco official told ET from Damanjodi. The Orissa police DG and IG are also at the spot and are expected to prepare a enquiry report on the incident.
At the same time, the CISF is also stepping up its deployment at Damanjodi by nearly 25%. A 400-strong CISF force is entrusted with providing security cover at Nalco's sprawling mines and refinery at Damanjodi, nestled deep within the Panchpatmalli hills and close to the state's border with Andhra Pradesh.
The security measures are likely to shore up confidence among employees regarding safety threat in the area, especially since nearly 100 of them had a providential escape after being held hostage by Maoists last Sunday. “It is necessary for us to give our employees confidence to start work again at the mines,” a company official said
New Delhi: While security forces and intelligence agencies perceived a threat to the poll process from Islamist terrorist groups based outside India, it is the home-grown naxalite violence that threatens to disrupt the general election. And the establishment says it can't do much to contain the menace.
At least 48 security force personnel have been killed in 100 naxalite attacks since the election was announced on March 2, 12 of them during the first phase of polling on Thursday. Of the 48, 30 are from the Central Reserve Police Force, 11 from the Central Industrial Security Force, and the rest from the Border Security Force. This figure is higher than the number of security force personnel killed in the corresponding period in Jammu & Kashmir and the Northeast put together.
With four more phases of polling still to go over the next month, the reach and scale of the naxalite attacks suggest that this general election will go down as India's bloodiest, officials in the security establishment have admitted.
"The reach and intensity of attacks is unprecedented, but there is little we can do now," a senior intelligence officer said. Central forces have been stretched thin for election duty and state police forces are not up to the task.
State police forces for years neglected and let the naxal menace grow. Now they are throwing up their hands and demanding the deployment of paramilitary forces. But central forces are also not qualified for the task, what with new terrain, strange topography, and no local sources.
While the CISF is trained to protect industrial complexes, the BSF guards peaceful international borders.
If the regularity and intensity of the present wave of naxal attacks is any indication, the day is not far when the state may have to deploy the armed forces, at least in some areas. India's response to all insurgencies has followed the same pattern: for years states ignore the problem or treat it as a mere law-and-order issue. Then, as it becomes unmanageable, they seek central paramilitary assistance. Eventually, the army is called in.
The naxal threat is far bigger in this general election as compared 2004.
When the first wave of naxalism struck India, it was contained by state police forces and through political efforts. But the new-generation naxalism is stronger, more widespread and cohesive, and has safe hideouts in central and eastern India. Many within the establishment are clearly worried.
"The money the Centre has given to these (naxal-affected) states for police modernisation is mostly unspent, and now they are shifting the responsibility to central forces," said a senior member of the security establishment. "There is very little we can do for the coming phases of polls. Already our paramilitary forces are very stretched," he said, admitting candidly that violence could continue at this level over the next phases, too.
In 2004, the naxalite calls for election boycott and violence were not so successful. "But this time, they are making a very strong statement," the official said.
Posted: Saturday , Apr 18, 2009 at 0114 hrs IST
With the killing of 29 securitymen and seven civilians by Naxalites during Phase I and the day preceding the vote making it one of the bloodiest starts to an election in recent times, questions are being asked over the Election Commission wisdom of scheduling polls in almost all Naxal-affected areas in the first round.
Sources have told The Indian Express that while deciding on the poll schedule, there was considerable debate on whether it would be possible to hold peaceful elections in the entire Naxal belt simultaneously, especially since North-Eastern states and parts of Jammu and Kashmir were also being clubbed in the same phase.
It was pointed out that from the security point of view, it was a nightmare situation, especially after intelligence agencies had repeatedly warned that Naxalite groups were planning to strike in a big way to disrupt the election process.
The Election Commission, however, was said to be in favour of conducting elections in these areas in one go considering the fact that they are geographically contiguous. But this decision resulted in the number of Central security forces in these areas being considerably lower than what was necessary to keep Naxalites out.
Chhattisgarh is a classic example. During last year’s Assembly polls in the state which was held in two phases, 300 companies of para-military forces were deployed, apart from the 80 that is permanently stationed there to fight Naxalites. But this time, instead of 300, only 85 companies could be made available for the entire state which went to polls in single phase.
P Chidambaram took over as home minister in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks, and has helped fashion the government's counter-terror initiatives.
With elections on, he has also been leading Congress's counter attack to BJP's "soft-on-terror" charge. In a conversation with Vishwa Mohan and Himanshi Dhawan, he tries to shift the battle to the rival's terrain. Excerpts:
Q. Is terrorism an issue in the election?
A. It is an issue but it is not the sole issue. Both in urban India and rural India, I acknowledge that it is an issue amongst the handful of issues that occupy the mind of the electorate.
Q. If several issues are in play, why did the Congress party feel the need to bring out a document on terrorism?
A. No particular reason to put out the paper, but we want everybody to know that we have done a lot of homework on this matter. I thought this was an opportunity to make the point that you cannot fight terror unless you're prepared to fight communalism. As far as Indian terror groups are concerned, both groups -- the jihadi terrorist groups and the Hindu militant groups -- perpetrate terror in the name of religion and therefore unless you are prepared to fight communalism, you can't fight terrorism.
Q. Many people will look askance at the equivalence you are seeking between jihadi terrorism and the one by Hindu militants.
A. Terror is terror. Anybody who perpetrates terror will have to be dealt with firmly and decisively. I am able to see that both kinds of terror groups commit acts of terror in the name of religion. They are not committing acts of terror in any other name, but they are doing so in the name of religion to advance what they believe is their religious cause. Therefore, one has to be able to fight communalism in order to be able to fight terrorism.
Q. How do you react to BJP's charge that the fight against terrorism has been a setback because of UPA?
A. Complete rubbish. What is BJP's record in fighting ULFA, in fighting naxalism, in identifying and fighting terror modules in India? These terror modules did not spring overnight. These terror modules have been in the making for the last many years.
As far as I am concerned, terror is terror. Terrorist is a terrorist. I do not recognise his religion. It is motiveless malignity, if I may borrow a Shakespearean phrase.
Q. Why no decision has been taken on Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's mercy petition?
A. Afzal Guru is one amongst 28 cases who are on death row. His case is 22nd in the list of 28. Before him, serial number 14 is also terrorist offence -- assassins of Rajiv Gandhi. Is it not an important case?
Assassin of Rajiv Gandhi was sentenced on January 28, 1998. It was confirmed by Supreme Court on May 11, 1999. BJP was in power. Why didn't they carry out the sentence? Let me answer this myself. In this country, examination of a mercy petition is a well established but a slow procedure. So, what applies to case number one and what applies to case number 14 will apply to case number 22 also. Why did you pick out one case and say this has to be dealt with on a fast track. Then, I am entitled to say that you are picking up that case because you are looking at that case through the lens of religion. You are looking at the religious persuasion of that man, which I reject. All these cases are to be dealt with according to the established procedure.
Q. There is a perception that before 26/11 nothing substantial was done as a result of which the country had to face a series of terror attacks during 2005-08. How has the situation changed now?
A. I don't think you can divide our anti-terror efforts into post-26/11 and pre-26/11 and even if you divide in that manner, pre-26/11 would include NDA government's rule. When I looked at the situation, I found that all the elements were there. All the agencies were there. But they were not pooling together. Post 26/11, I decided to question the intelligence establishment and security forces on the strategy that they have adopted so far and goad them into rethinking their entire strategy.
Q. Has it resulted in important shifts?
A. Not only in the case of cross-border terrorism but also naxalism. For example, it was and it is even now believed that police action and development can go hand in hand in naxal-affected areas. To some extent, it is a naive theory. Development is important but development can take place only when police action has secured the area. If police action does not secure that area, whatever development you may do, will be wiped out by naxalites in a few days or few weeks.
Q. It marks a departure from what is considered the `root cause' approach?
A. Well I don't think naxalites are motivated by any ideology. Maybe one or two of them are ideologically motivated but most of them are simply bandits.
Q. Do you think the amended Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) is strong enough to fight terror, considering that it does not recognise confession before police as evidence?
A. It's strong enough. But, along with strong laws you also need fair laws. Two provisions are obnoxious. One, confession to a police officer will be made admissible. And second, if a public prosecutor opposes bail, court shall not grant bail. Given the reality of the policing system in this country, we all know that the confession to a police officer is invariably suspect and to say that if a public prosecutor opposes bail the judge should not grant bail is to make a mockery of the court. These two provisions are not there in our law. We have no intention of introducing these two provisions in our law. I think, the UAPA, as amended, is a strong and, at the same time, fair law.
Q. Congress party's document on terrorism remains silent on infiltration despite the fact that it poses a big threat. Why it is so?
A. This is only confined to cross-border terror. This plan does not deal with naxalites, it does not deal with insurgent groups in the northeast nor does it deal with infiltration from Bangladesh. We didn't want to distract from the core of the document, which is cross-border terror supported by home grown terrorist modules. There are separate strategies (to deal with naxalism, infiltration, immigration lapses and others) and if necessary we can put them together in the form of a booklet.
Q. Porous Indo-Nepal border also poses a big problem as there have been reports that the terrorists may take this route to sneak in. How will the home ministry address this issue?
A. Indo-Nepal border is a porous border. Indo-Pak borders in Punjab and Rajasthan are more or less secure. Earlier, infiltrators were coming through LoC and international border in Kashmir. They still make an attempt to come through the LoC in Kashmir but in recent times, they have found it feasible to come via Nepal. They come to Kathmandu and try and cross the border between India and Nepal. We are working with the Nepal government in identifying these potential infiltrators when they reach Kathmandu. There have been some successes, but I don't deny that it is possible that a few of them may have infiltrated the Indo-Nepal border.
Q. Ambitious Multi-Purpose National Identity Card (MNIC) scheme is billed as one of the steps to keep tabs on infiltrators or illegal immigrants. But, the pace of the project is quite slow.
A. It was a pilot project. We had to prove the concept. It was completed in March 2008. The period between April 2008 and March 2009 was the maintenance phase. That phase is also complete. Now the pilot has been proved. We have entrusted it to the Registrar General of India who is going to take it up. I have given a timeframe to all the coastal towns and villages as well as Andaman and Nicobar Islands for cards to be issued to all residents by 2009-2010. For the remainder in India, it will be done along with the National Population Register. So once the NPR is ready, side-by-side the cards will be issued.
Q. Police vacancies in states have become a major impediment in the fight against terrorism and naxalism. How will you tackle this problem?
A. We are addressing that. At the time of chief ministers' conference on January 6, there were 100,000 vacancies in the constabulary. But since that conference and since my review, every state is in a crash programme mode to fill vacancies. In fact, I am pretty confident that the bulk of the vacancies will be filled by December 31, 2009 and most certainly by March 31, 2010.
Q. Will the states adhere to the deadline?
A. They are all doing it. I know their programmes. I have got the numbers, I have got the calendar. They are now in a rush to fill the vacancies.
Q. Pace of modernisation of police forces has also been quite slow.
A. It is in a frantic pace now. Whether it is raising more India Reserve (IR) battalions, setting up more police stations, procuring more weapons, communication equipment, bomb disposal equipment, filling vacancies in the constabulary, every state is in a rush to address the pending issues.
Q. Are you seeing a new type of sensitivity that has been so far absent?
A. Well, there is a certain sense of urgency and CMs are now being asked to review the work of their home departments. I am holding review meetings in states and so far I have done it in 12 states. Therefore, there is a sense of urgency. DGPs are using this new awareness to pressure their governments. DGPs are also using their clout, which is another pressure point.
Q. What do you say about the Karnataka chief minister's allegation that the Centre neglected the state's cause as far as giving it a regional NSG hub is concerned?
A. Karnataka thinks it can reap dividends by peddling this sob story. Karnataka has no reason to complain. It is the first state which got an operational anti-terror hub. The NSG hubs have not become operational in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata or Hyderabad, but Karnataka's anti-terror hub is operational in Bangalore.
I have written to the chief minister telling him it is operational, you now coordinate between the DGP and the commander of the anti-terror force so that they can be deployed where necessary. Karnataka should in fact thank the government for setting up the first anti-terror hub and secondly, Army's special force unit is as good if not better than the NSG hub.
NAGPUR: Security forces on Friday rescued a polling party that was target of a Naxalite attack in Gadchiroli district. The party was returning from
Michgaon village, that had seen a Naxal attempt even on Thursday, in Dhanora tehsil of Gadchiroli. The attack was neutralised by aggressive counter-assault by the escorting security forces.
The security forces also dug out a landmine from the road connecting Allapalli and Bhamragadh at Perimili in Aheri. The Bomb Detection and Disposal squad from Pranhita defused the mine recovering almost 15 kg of explosives on Friday. This was Naxals’ third attempt on the polling parties in Gadchiroli in last two days. The first attack had taken place when the security forces were escorting polling parties to Michgaon polling booth.
The voting officials were also ambushed near Darichi in Dhanora. The attack was repulsed but it did trigger some panic after two jawans of the paramilitary forces were found missing. The jawans, who had lost their way inside the jungle, later returned.
State Anti-Naxal Operations (ANO) chief Pankaj Gupta said that the security forces had successfully thwarted Naxal plans to disrupt polling. “The polling party had decided to halt at Michgaon Thursday night fearing an attack. It had faced an attack earlier. We sensed the danger and worked out a plan. A reinforcement of C-60 commandos was sent to help the escorting party,” said Gupta. “Around 120 Naxals tried to attack the polling party near Godalwahi village. The security forces retaliated fiercely compelling them to retreat. The frustrated Naxals then triggered a blast. In fact, we are sure they have lost a couple of their men,” said Gupta.
He planned the operation along with Surinder Kumar, the Nagpur range IG, and Rajesh Pradhan, superintendent of police, Gadchiroli. Kumar had led a mission to airlift a polling party from sensitive Gyrapatti to Dhanora base camp. “Most of the polling parties have returned safely. We have maintained the pressure and will keep the heat on,” said Kumar who was camping in Gadchiroli.
NEW DELHI: In a well coordinated action spanning five states, over 700 armed Red ultras did exactly what they planned for the first day of polling.
The violence unleashed by them in defiance of the presence of over 50,000 security personnel claimed 19 lives, while the fate of several villagers abducted by the Maoists was not known till late on Thursday evening.
Though the number of polling booths affected by their attacks remained quite low (71 out of 76,000 across all Naxal-affected states), the well-choreographed violence succeeded in keeping voters away from polling stations in almost all naxal-affected parliamentary constituencies in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Maharashtra.
The Maoists — as reported by TOI on Monday — had planned such attacks in February when they asked their cadres to prepare for simultaneous attacks in the run-up to polls to scare voters. Accordingly, they had launched attacks in Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh early this month, taking 48 lives — including 42 security personnel — in the past nine days.
Officials claimed the attack only proved right their decision to hold polls in all the naxal-affected states together and in the first phase itself. The decision gave security forces from outside three weeks to work out a partnership with their counterparts already deployed there and to achieve area domination, besides better coordination among agencies in different states. They said that spreading the polls in the naxal-affected areas over two phases would not have given security forces the time to familiarise themselves with the topography and establish area domination. It would have also helped naxalites, adept at swiftly moving resources, to attack more targets.
Security agencies stressed that it was not a one-sided affair. Ultras too had to face reverses in the wake of counter-attack by local cops in coordination with BSF and CRPF. But, the casualties among the security forces — 11 out of 19 — exposed their vulnerability in Red zones.
Officials in the home ministry said majority of casualties occurred due to BSF's failure to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs). Ten troopers lost their lives in a landmine blast in Latehar in Jharkhand as they preferred to travel in a bus even on the landmine-prone tracks — against the usual practice of walking through such areas, they added.
Officials mentioned how such a precautionary step taken by CRPF men saved their lives a day before when they got down from their vehicle while passing through the vulnerable area in Jharkhand.
As a result, their bus was blown up, but it didn't result in major casualties. Incidentally, the home ministry reminded the paramilitary forces to follow the same SOPs in the naxal areas in the wake of the Jharkhand incident on Wednesday. BSF chief M L Kumawat, however, blamed such incidents on poor intelligence.
RAJNANDGAON (Chhattisgarh): Naxals looted two Electronic Voting machines (EVMs) and set a bus on fire after polling ended on Thursday, police said.
The Naxals struck when polling officers boarded a bus to leave from Kusumkusa and Saleh Kusumkasa polling centres in the district after polling ended there, they said.
They made polling party get off the bus and set it on fire and fled with two EVMs, police said.
A case has been registered in this connection, they said.
THE build-up was there for all to see — a meticulously planned attack on the CISF contingent guarding the NALCO unit in Damanjodi, Orissa, that left 11 security personnel dead, the murder of a candidate for the Kandhamal seat in Orissa and a series of strikes on security personnel in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
But the sheer firepower Naxalite groups unleashed on the day of polling for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections is set to leave the country’s security and political establishments reeling for quite some time. Rarely have these extremists struck in such quick succession, at so many locations and with such brutal force. As the government scurries to contain the damage and re-jigs the deployment of security forces for the next few weeks, the message that the Naxalites have sent out is clear — they have taken their war against the Indian State to a new, more violent level.
Over the past few weeks, they had put up posters in their strongholds, warning political leaders to refrain from campaigning. The Election Commission had decided that the worst affected constituencies would vote in the first phase. These 18 constituencies are in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. The idea was to give security forces enough time for area domination in the days before polling. This is something that has not happened though the Union home ministry claimed all states had been alerted to take “firm measures”.
The security personnel had fanned out across Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Maharashtra. The extremists also seem to have finetuned their strategies. In at least one instance, landmines were reportedly placed on a pucca (metalled) road — a departure from their usual practice of mining dirt tracks and forest trails that could be used by security forces.
The violence shows that the strategy of saturating areas with security personnel will not prevent attacks unless an effective network providing actionable intelligence backs the deployment.
Senior police officers concede that the successes they have achieved in the campaign against Left-wing extremism have, more often than not, been on the basis of specific intelligence inputs. The idea of using paramilitary and police personnel for static duty, like securing police stations and other government buildings, has not worked in the past.
The agenda of the CPI (Maoist) is clear. In early 2007, the 9th Congress of Maoists resolved to ‘resist’ mega projects like steel and bauxite projects in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in other states. The objective, the Congress claimed, was to prevent the “massive displacement and marginalisation’’ of the Adivasis and farmers.
This strategy also has a lot to do with their desire to ensure that these areas remained underdeveloped so that the sentiments of the people could be exploited.
The Naxalites have had a strategy of targeting communication and transport lines and other essential services. In the past, they have gone in for economic blockades, bringing life to a halt in parts of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. The past few years have shown a new trend that is equally disturbing — mobilisation of activists in urban areas including Delhi, Punjab and Haryana. This is in addition to a massive exercise of recruiting members in their strongholds.
The extremists are active within the so-called Red Corridor that runs from ‘Pashupati to Tirupati’, referring to the swathe that cuts through forests from the Nepal border to the Andhra Pradesh-Tamil Nadu border. Only Andhra Pradesh has succeeded in keeping them at bay, using its elite Greyhounds forces for successful surgical strikes against the leadership. But this has also meant that they have been pushed to the region bordering Orissa, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.
In recent years, they have perfected the technique of ‘swarming attacks’, where hundreds swoop down on a target, mostly at night, achieve their objective and melt into the forests. The latest instance was the attack on Asia’s largest bauxite mine in Damanjodi, believed to have been carried out by a few hundred men and women.
They fled with an explosives-laden truck that had just arrived at the mines site, a development that is kept secret and known only to a handful since the extremists have come after explosives in the past. Investigators are now looking at the possibility of an insider being involved.
The government response to Leftwing extremism has been a framework that seeks to tackle the problem at two levels — by speeding up development in the affected areas to erode their popular support base even as security personnel deal with the law and order angle.
But this is set to be a long haul.
There are allegations of corruption in development programmes funded by the central and state governments — the Naxalites themselves take a hefty commission from contractors for each new project that is launched. On the security front, the Centre is still in process of setting up the 10,000-strong Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (Cobra) to fight the Naxalites. Two battalions have been created from within the Central Reserve Police Force, using personnel who were already engaged in anti-Naxalite operations. It will take another two years or so for the rest of the personnel to be recruited and trained.
So, it could be a while before the extremists begin feeling the kind of pressure that the government wants to put on them.
First Published : 17 Apr 2009 04:10:00 AM ISTLast Updated : 17 Apr 2009 08:48:54 AM ISTJEYPORE: Against the backdrop of Naxal mayhem in Damanjodi and prevailing fear psychosis among voters, the voting was over in the Naxal zone of Koraput, Rayagada and Malkangiri districts today.
But the Naxal threat and fear took a heavy toll on polling as the areas witnessed one of lowest-ever voter turnout in the election history.
Police were on their toes to thwart Naxal attack as the rebels blocked several roads by felling trees and set several polling booths on fire. As many as ten booths in Balimela and Kudulugumma blocks in Malkangiri district had no polling on the day due tor Naxal threats. Naxals also torched polling stations and material in Malmarionda, Kalimela, Tonkarkota, Badigota, MV 73, MV 75, Andrahall and even burnt a jeep of a polling team near Andrahall. Polling was also not recorded in five villages under Kummanur panchayats in Malkangiri as the locals boycotted the polls demanding tribal status. Despite heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces, the Naxals found blocking roads in Kalimela and Chitrokonda areas. Only 20 percent polling was recorded in Naxal-infested Malkangiri, Kalimela, Khoiraput, Kudumullugmma and Padia in the region.
Similarly, Koraput district, which is bearing the brunt of Naxal violence, also recorded no polling in many areas.
Five villages under Narayanpatna, two in Bandhguam and five in Boipariguda blocks in the district recorded no polling as locals boycotted the elections following threat by Naxal. For the first time in the election history Naxals blocked the roads linked to Jeypore by chopping trees near Boipariguda, Lamataput, Naryanpatna and Bandhugam to prevent polling parties from reaching interior areas. After reports of explosives being planted in the areas were received by the administration, the roads were cleared for passage. Naxalinfested Koraput, Narayanpatana, Bandhugam, Laxmipur and Boipariguda recorded 40 percent polling due Naxal threats.
Rayagada, where also Naxal threat loomed large, witnessed low turnout in Naxalite pockets. Only 35 percent polling was recorded in Maoist-infested Gunupur, Bissamcuttack, Rayagada, Chandrapur and Muniguda blocks. As many as 12 polling booths - three in Gunupur, four in Chandraput, three in Bissamcuttack and two in Muniguda - recorded no polling due to boycott call by Naxals. Over 4000 armed police were deployed in three Naxal-infested districts of Koraput, Rayagada and Malkangiri and hide and seek game between police and Maoists was witnessed in many places. However, no large-scale attack by Naxals was recorded from anywhere as the police took enough precautionary measures and pressed into service choppers to keep tabs on Naxals
NEW DELHI: While expressing concern over naxal violence in four States, the Union Home Ministry on Thursday said the latest violence by the CPI (Maoist) and other naxal groups on the day of polling was not unexpected.
It asserted that the government was determined to foil the nefarious designs of the naxals to derail the poll process.
Senior officials of the Ministry said the CPI (Maoist) and other extremist groups, as a part of their agenda to prevent the democratic and development processes, had, as in the past, been propagating boycott of the general elections.
To vitiate the atmosphere, the extremists had been holding meetings and putting up posters and banners in certain States. They had also indulged in wanton violence during the last fortnight.
Officials said well-armed naxal cadres targeted Central para-military forces, ranging from the Border Security Force (BSF) to the Central Industrial Security Force.
Observers said the ability of naxal groups to target well-armed convoys of the security forces and their units, indicated they would attack Central para-military forces on the day of polling.
Home Ministry officials said the State governments had been urged to take measures to counter the naxal propaganda aimed at depriving the people of their democratic rights. They said that intelligence inputs and close coordination with the State governments resulted in pro-active measures.
They said security forces made large recoveries of explosives, landmines and improvised explosive devices over the past few days. In encounters with the security forces, at least 19 naxal cadres were killed over the past week.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
New Delhi, April 16:
Spilling blood on the ballot in the world's biggest democratic exercise, Naxalites killed 17 people and injured several others in the red corridor of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa as voters streamed to polling booths in 15 states and two Union Territories in the first phase of polling for 124 Lok Sabha seats.
About 20 to 30 turnout of the 14.31 crore voters was reported from various parts of the country while security personnel had a tough time to ensure smooth polling in troubled areas.
Five zonal officials were killed and two others injured in a landmine blast in Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh. The jeep carrying the officials was blown apart in landmine blast between Kamkasur and Kusmi villages about 100 km from the district headquarters.
A CRPF jawan was killed and seven others injured in naxal attacks in the Bastar region of the state where polls were held for all the 11 seats.
In their bid to disrupt polling in Jharkhand, Maoists struck today killing at least nine people including seven BSF personnel and two civilians and injuring seven other jawans setting off a landmine explosion in Hesla forest area under Chandwa police station in Latehar.
In Gaya district of Bihar, Maoist guerillas went on a rampage, killing two policemen and injuring three, including a woman constable, in a daring attack on a polling booth under Aurangabad constituency in south Bihar.
Bhubaneswar(orissa):On 16th april( 1st phase voting) they targated 7 places but no one died or injuried in it. Even after their threatining people cast their vote. But according to the reliable sources the naxals may strike again with more ferocious manner at the time of counting or at the place where the ballot boxes has been kept.
The recent ativities of naxals in orissa particularly in malkangiri district to disrupt election process sends a clear message that they already setup their strong hold at malkangiri. The informations from cobra battalion and the intelligence report also agree it. The maoist’s Malkangiri regional committe secretary Ramal in an interview just three days before the 1st phase of general election, clearly spoken that they any how want to stop the election in Malkangiri. Because they already setup a parallel government ” Janata Sarkar” there.
According the interview with the ramal, they already setup ” Janata Sarkar” in 10 GPs of malkangiri. Every year they selected a poor tribe among the villagers as the leader. If he find any how incompetent for the post they immediately remove him and selected a new leader. Every week they organise ” janata Darbar”, there they decide which development work shoud be undertaken. Accordingly the villagers work volunterily. They also set up bal sangham (children regiment), mahila sangham, for military training.
According to the Cobra batalion sources, They simply want to wipe out all the political leaders in the district. and they already taken the steps Already they setup their R&A centres in the deep forests of Malkangiri, which are some how inaccssible. Now they posted some 400 hard core naxals in different parts of malkangiri. In their process to create a strong hold in this area they killed nanda kartami, a BJP leader and ex Zilla parishad chairman of malkangiri just 20 days befroe the general election, after they killed Samrudhha Odisha MLA candidate somanath madkami. Before this they did not killed or targated such big political leaders. Among three, who are in the maoists hitlist, two above mentioned persons has been killed, another, the former State minister Aravinda Dhali. was rescued from three killing bids and taken shelter at Bhubaneswar, On last Sunday night they attacked NALCO explosive godown. Because they want to take all the explosives, which they should have used to disrupt election. but ironiclly their attempt was foiled.
Security personnel were returning on foot from polling duty in Kalimela area of Malkangiri when Maoists started firing on them. The security forces retaliated.
However, no injuries were reported, Deputy Inspector General (southern range) Sanjeeb Panda told IANS.
The gun battle is still raging, he said.
Published by: Noor Khan
Published: Thu, 16 Apr 2009 at 22:19
Bhubaneswar, Apr 16 : After disrupting the election process in Orissa's Malkangiri, Maoists fired on a CRPF and BSF joint patrol in the Naxal-hit district tonight, the police said.
Though casualty was feared in the encounter, Director General of Police M M Praharaj told PTI over phone that the police were still waiting for detailed information.
The security personnel had taken position at a nearby school, he said.
"The ultras opened fire on the patrol which was returning from Bejingabada in Kalimela area," Praharaj said.
The patrol had been sent there to guard polling stations for the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, the DGP added.
Additional forces were despatched to the spot to counter the ultras, DIG (South-West) Sanjeeb Panda said.
Sources however, said that the patrol was surrounded by the ultras from all sides and exchange of fire was on.
Contacted, Malkangiri SP Satyabrata Bhoi could not give details about casualty as the encounter site was about 100 kms from the district headquarters.
Thursday, April 16, 2009 21:21 IST Email
On the one side stands a man who re-invented himself in 1990 as the spokesperson for a zero-tolerance for terror position. On the other is an economist who strayed into politics and stayed on due to a series of historical coincidences.
It is commonplace to assert that the Congress is weak on terror and the larger area of national security. Indeed many sins can and should be laid at its door. Most critical in the post-1967 phase was the nurturing of extremism in Sikh politics to counteract the Akali Dal. But on the whole, the campaign of the BJP is off the mark.
For one, its own record has blemishes so serious that it is unable to wash it away. For the other, the Congress has a tradition of being much tougher on security issues at least since the Indira Gandhi era than its opponents, and at times well-wishers recognise that.
But first for Advani's own party and his own public record. It is wide off the target partly due the warts on its own leader's face. Unlike his predecessor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee who spoke little but said a lot, LK Advani is prolific both in print and on the stump.
The entire Kandahar episode had faded away into the background till he published his bestselling autobiography, My Country, My Life. Most prominent among many issues was the claim that he did not know about the prisoners for hostages' deal that was struck with the hijackers at Kandahar. The whole country was following the drama that ended in the swap. But the home minister of the time is on record that he was not in the know.
There has been no word from close aides of the then prime minister. But the silence itself is deafening. It shows up a party and government that were deeply divided at a time of extreme national danger.
The Congress has not done so but one of its leaders is bound to contrast this with two episodes of the past. One was the hijacking of the Air India plane in early 1971 in the run-up to the Bangladesh war. The other was the siege of the Akali Takht undertaken during Rajiv Gandhi's tenure. Both were handled with a mix of firmness and resolve.
This had an internal dimension as well. The Indira Period 1966-84 was marked by critical security challenges at home and abroad. The immediate aftermath of her becoming premier was marked within a year by the Mizo rebellion and the much more widespread Naxalite uprising. In neither case could she be accused of having been soft. Reading human rights accounts, one is struck by how much criticism she came under for excessive use of force.
Yet, in both cases, there was serious political follow up as anti-poverty programmes helped the government reach out to the rural under-privileged. The Mizo leader Laldenga was in detailed talks before her death that eventually led to an accord in 1987 that has held the passage of time.
Bangladesh is too well known an episode to require repetition. But it must be stated for the record that the surrender of 93,000 men of the Pakistan armed forces in Dhaka was the largest single such surrender since Stalingrad.
The occupation of Siachen was one of the last strategic decisions of Indira Gandhi. But the subsequent operations including the major battles of 1987 were conducted under Rajiv's watch.This period also saw India asserting itself on other occasions: Brasstacks (November '86 to March '87), a virtual forerunner of Parakram under Vajpayee.
On the Chinese front, there was Operation Falcon in Sumdorong Chu area of Arunachal Pradesh (late 1986 to May-June, 1987). Interestingly, two years later the PM was in Beijing for his famous five-minute handshake with Deng. Again, the show of strength went with flexibility in diplomacy.
The BJP's problem is not that the record of the three Vajpayee governments had no positive moments. It is that Advani has the mindset of a leader who has spent most of his lifetime in opposition. The inability to appreciate the constraints of a governing party are but natural for anyone who has been in public life for decades before holding high office.
What is significant is that the Congress has not cashed in on its own record, especially under both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. One does not have to be a partisan Congressman to know their achievements.
The country can and will ask questions of their record. But so will it of Advani's party. Have no doubt about who really blinked.
Public sector National Aluminium Company (Nalco) today failed to restart operations at its bauxite mines in the Panchpatmali hills in Koraput district of Orissa, with workers deciding not to join duty till the authorities fulfilled their security-related demands.
The demands include no duty in the mining area after sunset, increasing the number of security personnel and their presence in the workers’ colony and in buses used to transport the workers.
The operations have halted following a Naxalite attack on the site on Sunday night, in which 10 Central Industrial Security Force jawans and five Naxalites were killed. About 100 Nalco workers were held hostage by the ultras for over eight hours.
The Nalco management today held prolonged discussions with the workers’ union. With no solution in sight, sources said it might be some more days before the mines restarted.
Terming the workers’ demand “unreasonable”, a top executive of the company engaged in the talks said, “If we agree to the demands, it will lead to virtual closure of the company. For example, accepting the workers’ demand for no work after sunset will render a large part of the workforce surplus. Besides, similar demands may be raised at other establishments of the company, such as the alumina refinery at Damanjodi and the aluminium and power complex at Angul, which will create operational problems for us.”
“We cannot increase the number of CISF personnel overnight. As of now, 417 CISF men are deployed to guard the refinery complex in Damanjodi and the bauxite mines at Panchpatmali, 15 km away. It will take time for reinforcements and to provide infrastructure for additional securitymen like housing, schools and healthcare services,” the official added.
The company estimates its spending on security will more than double if the demands of the employees are accepted. Nalco at present pays Rs 1.5 crore a month for the 417 CISF personnel deployed at the mines and the refinery complex. This excludes the cost of services like housing, healthcare and schooling.
Meanwhile, due to unavailability of bomb detention squads, the company has been unable to declare the mines completely free of land mines that the Naxalites may have laid during the attack.
NEW DELHI: Naxalites struck in a big way in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa killing 18 people, including five poll officials and ten A BSF jawan is rushed to a hospital after Maoists strike in Ranchi. (PTI Photo)
security personnel, as moderate to brisk voting was reported across 15 states and two union territories on the first day of polling for Lok Sabha elections.
Shortly after voting began this morning, Naxalites detonated a landmine targeting a bus ferrying Border Security Force personnel in Latehar district in Jharkhand in which five personnel and two civilians were killed.
Naxalites blew up a vehicle carrying poll officials in Chhattisgarh's Rajnandgaon district, killing five of them and injuring two others, police said.
Polling booths were set on fire and there was exchange of fire between the Naxals and the security forces in Dandewada and Narainpur areas in the state that left two CRPF jawan dead and five others injured in Maruki in Dandewada, about 350 kms from Raipur.
Voting which began on a sedate note in 124 constituencies this morning picked up during the day. Today's election will decide among others the fate of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha and TRS president K Chandrasekar Rao. There are 1,715 candidates in the fray.
Maoists also set afire at least three polling booths, electronic voting machines and other materials in Orissa's Malkangiri district today, disrupting voting.
In Bihar, a homeguard and a police official on election duty were shot dead and another injured by Naxals in Singhpur village in Gaya district, police said. Two other police personnel were reported missing.
Deputy Commissioner Sarvendu Tathagat in Latehar, about 125 kms from Ranchi, said the BSF personnel were returning from Ladhup to Arah after having carried of patrolling duty in Naxal strongholds when they were attacked. A helicopter has flown to the spot for rescue operations, he said.
Maoists set afire at least three polling booths, destroying electronic voting machines and other poll material in Orissa's Malkangiri district. Polling was disrupted in the area.
A staggering 1.85 lakh polling stations were set up by the Election Commission to enable about 14.31 crore voters to exercise their franchise.
Elections to 154 Assembly segments in Andhra Pradesh and 70 in Orissa were also held today.
While all 20 seats in Kerala, 11 in Chhattisgarh and two each in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya went to polls in a single phase today, polling was held in 13 out of 40 seats in Bihar, 16 out of 80 in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra 13 (48), Andhra Pradesh 22 (42), Jharkhand 6 (14), Orissa 10 (21), Assam 3 (14), Manipur 1 (2) and Jammu and Kashmir 1 (6).
The lone seats in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Mizoram and Nagaland were also covered in the first phase.
Prominent among those who contested today were Union Ministers Praful Patel, Renuka Chowdhury, D Purandeswari, Santosh Mohan Dev, Meira Kumar, Rameshwar Oraon and E Ahamed and BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy, former UN Under-Secretary General Shashi Tharoor and south Indian actress Vijaya Shanti.
The second phase of polling will be held on April 23, and voting in the remaining phases will take place on April 30, May seven and May 13.
BHUBANESWAR / KORAPUT: Police on Tuesday found a body of a suspected Maoist and took into custody four others from in Koraput district's Talameteng
village, the scene of a fierce battle going on for the past two days.
The cops' operation is to neutralize those who had attacked the Nalco bauxite mine atop the Panchapatmalli hill on Sunday and killed 10 CISF jawans. About six tons of explosives looted from the mines by the Red rebels were recovered from the village.
The village is about 13 km down the hill. Police have "come to know" that some villagers aided the 200-odd Maoists. All villagers have fled further to the jungle as the CRPF and the Special Operation Group (SOG) commandos of the Orissa police continued their raids. "The operation will continue," DIG Sanjeeb Panda said.
Apart from huge explosives, the Naxalites had taken away 10 INSAS rifles, one LMG on Sunday. From their uniform, police suspect that the lone deceased woman Naxalite was a commander and a male victim her deputy. The attack was jointly carried out by Naxalites from Chhatisgarh and Koraput.
"We are trying to piece together every bit of information to know how the Naxalites could plan such a big attack and executed it. This cannot be possible without the involvement of locals," said a police official.
The Naxalites had swooped down on the explosive store house and the fire station of the mines and continued the gun battle for around 10 hours. While retreating the Red extremists took away a truck filled with explosives and four other vehicles, including a bus.
"The hijacked vehicles have been traced. We are trying to find out how the extremists knew that the truck was waiting to unload explosives," the official said. Police said the rebels had unloaded the explosive containers each weighing 25 kg from the truck and buried them at two separate places down the hill.
"At 1400 meters height, the Naxalites had abandoned the vehicles, but took away the explosive containers around 500 meters down the hill. As combing operation started they deserted the area leaving behind the containers. We have recovered the explosives," DIG Panda said.
A guard of honour was given to the 10 slain CISF jawans at Damanjodi in the presence of Director General CISF N R Das who had rushed to Damanjodi on Monday to take stock of the situation.
According to official sources, the Naxals have started using a wide range of weapons ranging from the World War II era .303 rifles to fully automatic assault rifles.
The CRPF, having the mandate to deal with Naxal menace, besides fighting insurgents in Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir had seized 1,714 arms in the last financial year (2008-09).
Interestingly, the maximum seizures (1,040 arms) were from the Naxal-affected Orissa, where over 200 Left-wing extremists had mounted attack on a CISF guarded NALCO mine last week resulting in the death of 11 security personnel.
Sources said various Naxal 'dalams' (units) are using lethal foreign arms including the US-made SMG Thomson guns, AK-47 rifles and a number of Russian and Chinese rifles and pistols.
They said the weapons used by the Naxals vary from state to state.
Ranchi, April 16, 2009
First Published: 08:39 IST(16/4/2009)
Last Updated: 14:55 IST(16/4/2009)
At least 17 people were killed as Maoist guerrillas targeted polling officials and security personnel across four insurgency hit states, giving a violent start to India's general elections.
The states that were hit were Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Orissa, amongst the 17 states and union territories conducting elections in the first phase, where Maoists tried to implement their poll boycott in a hail of bullets and blasts.
In Chhattisgarh, holding elections for its 11 parliamentary seats, five members of a zonal reserve polling team members were killed in a landmine blast detonated by Maoists in Rajnandgaon district.
In the second incident, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper was killed in Maroki village in the Maoist stronghold of Dantewada in an exchange of bullets with guerrillas.
Maoist attacks sparked panic at six polling stations in southern Bastar region after the guerrillas opened gunfire soon after voting began, police said.
About 20 tribals were in a queue outside the Mangnar polling centre in the interior of Dantewada when the attack took place, resulting in most voters fleeing in panic.
"Our forces exchanged fire with the Naxalites. The polling booths have been secured," Dantewada Superintendent of Police Rahul Sharma told a news channel.
Neighbouring Jharkhand, conducting elections over two phases, saw similar violence with seven Border Security Force (BSF) personnel heading to an election centre killed in a landmine explosion in Latehar district. The bus driver and his assistant were also killed instantly.
After the mine exploded, the Maoists opened fire at the bus, triggering a gun battle that ended on a bloody note.
The incident took place near a jungle near Aara village, Sarvendu Tathagat, the Latehar district deputy police commissioner, told IANS over telephone.
There were two other gun battles between security forces and Maoists in Jharkhand's Khuti and Palamau districts, disrupting voting in both places, police spokesman K.N. Pradhan said.
A policeman and a Home Guard were killed in adjoining Bihar when over a dozen Maoists opened fire at a polling station in Bankebazaar in Gaya district.
The rebels looted an electronic voting machine and four rifles. Two women voters in a queue at the polling centre were injured and were hospitalised.
In Orissa, the Maoists raided four polling stations and set fire to voting machines and a vehicle in Malkangiri and Sundargarh districts, the authorities said.
Three of the polling stations were in Malkangiri district and one in Sundargarh. The attacks disrupted polling, Inspector General of Police Sudhanshu Sarangi said.
"In one village, they burnt voting machines and an Election Commission vehicle," police officer Satyabrata Bhoi said.
The outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist, which seeks to carry out an agrarian-based revolution, routinely calls for a boycott of all elections. It often enforces its boycott call with deadly attacks.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) The Indian Air Force (IAF) has a role to play in anti-terror operations within the country, its top-most commander said Wednesday.
“The IAF always has a role in these kinds of conflicts, whether in Jammu and Kashmir, or the northeast, or against Naxalism (Maoists),” IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said on the sidelines of a book release here.
“We certainly have a role to play here,” he maintained.
Another officer, however, clarified that the IAF’s role could be limited to providing logistical support and not staging full blown combat operations.
He pointed out that it was an IAF transport aircraft that had flown National Security Guard (NSG) commandos to Mumbai in the wake of the 26/11 terror attack on India’s financial capital.
Two IAF helicopters had ferried the NSG commandos who slithered down ropes to retake the Nariman House in Mumbai from the terrorists during the attacks.
Major’s remarks come as Maoist rebels launched back-to-back attacks, targeting those on election duty, in Bihar and Jharkhand Wednesday sparking fears that the ultras may try and disrupt the first-phase poll process Thursday.
According to Major, the IAF “has been requested by the MHA (ministry of home affairs) to keep choppers on standby for election duty”.
On Nov 14, 2008, an IAF sergeant was killed when Maoist rebels opened indiscriminate fire from AK-47s and light machine guns at an Mi-8 helicopter carrying polling staff as it was taking off in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bastar region.
The officials were being ferried from Pidia in Bijapur district, some 500 km from state capital Raipur, after voting ended in the assembly elections.
The pilot, Sqn. Ldr T.K. Choudhary, skillfully manouvred the helicopter and managed to land at Bastar headquarters Jagdalpur.
“The ultra, whose body was recovered from the Panchpatmali jungle on Sunday, sustained bullet injuries in the exchange of fire on Monday night,” Deepak Kumar, SP, Koraput, said.
With this, the Maoist casualty rose to five, with four other bodies having been recovered on Monday. — PTI
RANCHI (Reuters) - At least 20 people were killed in gunbattles between police and Maoist insurgents in the eastern states of Jharkhand and Bihar on Wednesday, officials say, a day before the elections the rebels have vowed to disrupt.
Maoist rebels have called for a poll boycott and blocked roads in remote towns in the region to prevent election officials from reaching remote polling booths.
Police officers say the rebels have also threatened to chop off the hands of voters.
The Maoists, who say they are fighting for the rights of poor farmers and landless labourers, have stepped up attacks in eastern and central India ahead of election.
In Jharkhand, which goes to polls on Thursday, eight people, including five Maoist rebels and two security personnel were killed in a fierce firefight.
In neighbouring Bihar, about a dozen Maoists were killed and several policemen were wounded in a gunbattle, after rebels fired at a police camp with rocket launchers.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist violence as the biggest internal security threat, as experts said the rebels were likely to step up attacks.
Thousands have been killed in the Maoist insurgency which began in the late 1960s and now stretches throughout rural areas of eastern, central and southern India.
KOLKATA: The Maoists appear to have hit home with last Sunday’s attack on Nalco’s prized Damanjodi mines in Orissa. Guess what? The country’s
largest aluminium producer is likely to lose a week’s production at its prized bauxite mines in Damanjodi even as it prepares to take a string of measures to allay employee fears in the aftermath of the unprecedented Maoist strike.
While the Nalco top brass has urged the bomb disposal squad of the state police to ‘scan’ the mines area at Damanjodi before declaring it safe for resumption of operations, things may take time in Ground Zero. With Orissa going to polls on Thursday, the state police is busy providing security cover at election booths.
"Given the situation, we hope to get bomb disposal squad at Damanjodi on Friday. Once they declare it safe, we will be able to resume work at the mines in phases from Saturday," a top Nalco official told ET. Nalco operates two shifts on a daily basis producing some 14,000 tonnes of bauxite. On that basis alone it would suffer 1 lakh tonnes of bauxite production because of the unprecendented Maoist strike.
If anything, the attack has instilled fear in the minds of the people in the region. A total 500 employees, including officers, work in the Damanjodi mines which holds Asia’s largest bauxite deposits. But after the attacks, no one is willing to work in the evening shift especially between 6 to 10 pm.
"We are taking immediate steps to scale up security in the area. The CISF has already stepped up deployment in the mines. We have also started repairing barbed wire fences damaged during the raid," P K Mahapatra Nalco’s executive director mines & refinery at Damanjodi said.
The director general of state police and other senior officials including Nalco’s director (personnel & administration) and executive director (personnel & administration) also checked out the site and spoke to the employees union in a bid to allay fears about their safety.
Police have also managed to seize nine tonnes of explosives that Maosist rebels had stolen during the raid. An explosives-filled van was recovered from the Panchpatmalli hill slopes at a distance from the mines. But it is yet to be handed back to Nalco, a company official said.
Police said the road communication was disrupted in the interior pockets of Koraput, Malkangiri and Rayagada districts in southern part of the state.
"Most of the roads blocked by the rebels have been cleared," Inspector General of Police Arun Sarangi told IANS.
Sarangi said at least 100,000 central and state forces personnel have been deployed across the state. These include 49 companies of paramilitary forces, 69 companies of state armed battalions and 40,000 state policemen.
"As the rebels have called for a boycott of the poll, special security arrangements have been made in Naxal affected areas," he said.
The Maoists have stepped up attacks in the past few weeks. The rebels last week killed Somnath Madkami, the Samrudha Odisha party's candidate for the Malkangiri assembly seat. They also blew up several mobile towers in the same district.
Malkangiri Superintendent of Police Satyabrata Bhoi said, "We are sending polling teams to the troubled areas by chopper." Malkangiri is considered as a Maoist-stronghold.
The rebels are active in more than half of state's 30 districts.
The state goes to a two-phase polls to elect 121-member state assembly and 21 members to the Lok Sabha April 16 and 23.
In Latehar area of Jharkhand, about 125 km. from Ranchi, the Maoists triggered a landmine blast targeting an empty bus heading to a poll cluster for Thursday's polls in Naxal- affected Palamau constituency, killing the civilian driver.
Latehar falls under the Palamau seat.
Immediately after the blast, 80 CRPF constables, who had alighted from the bus fearing an attack on a road stretch on a sharp incline and were walking behind the vehicle, took positions and fired on the extremists, Inspector General of Police (Provision) S N Pradhan said.
CRPF constable Dharmendar Yadav and five Maoists were killed in the exchange of fire, he said. Six injured Maoists were taken away by the extremists. Six CRPF personnel were also injured in the gunfight.
Earlier on Wednesday, about 200 Maoists attacked a BSF camp of 70-odd men and officers in Bihar's Rohtas district, set up in connection with the polls, leaving a jawan injured, Superintendent of Police Vikas Vaibhav told PTI in Sasaram, around 200 km. from Patna.
About heavily armed guerrillas, who have called for a boycott of the Lok Sabha polls, surrounded the BSF camp near Rohtasgarh fort in Dhansa Valley at around 1.40 am and attacked it with rockets, Additional Director General of Police (HQ) Neelmani said in Patna.
The BSF personnel retaliated and engaged the ultras in an encounter that lasted over three and a half hours.
A BSF jawan, who suffered a leg injury, has been evacuated and shifted to Patna Medical College hospital where he is reported to be out of danger, Neelmani said.
IG (Operations) S K Bharadwaj said two IAF helicopters were assisting the forces in tracking down the retreating Naxals and airdropping security personnel.
Rohtas SP, Vikas Vaibhav is leading a team of central para-military forces, state police and a special task force in the forests around the scene of encounter.
Sources in the state police headquarters said there were signs of the wounded being dragged, indicating casualties on the part of the Naxalites, but no bodies had been found so far.
It was for the first time in the last 15 years or more that polling stations were set up at Budhuan and Dhansa close to Rohtasgarh fort to enable the electors to cast their votes and the BSF contingent was stationed close by to instill confidence among them.
On Tuesday night, the CRPF and the Maoists had exchanged gunfire at Ratnag village, also in Palamau district.
The police had launched a concerted move against the Naxalites following their call for boycott of elections and destroyed their training camp in the forest close to Nakti village under Rohtas police station limits a couple of days ago. Today's attack could be in retaliation for that, sources said.
On April 12, at least 11 CISF personnel were killed in a gunfight following a daring attack by Maoists on a well-guarded armoury and bauxite mine of public sector NALCO in Orissa's Koraput district. Four naxalites were killed in the encounter.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
"Two helicopters - MI8 and Chetak - are ready for aerial patrolling and operations against Maoists during the first phase of the polls (Thursday)," Inspector General of Police (Operations) S.K. Bhardawaj told IANS.
Bhardawaj will lead the Special Task Force (STF) team that will conduct aerial surveillance.
The government will also deploy central paramilitary forces in large numbers in sensitive regions.
Voters in 13 parliamentary constituencies will cast their ballot in the first phase of polls Thursday. These include the Magadh division comprising Gaya, Aurangabad, Jehanabad, Arwal, Nawada and Sasaram; Tirhut division made up of Saran, Siwan, Gopalganj and Maharajganj; as well as Ara district.
The outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has a strong presence in the rural areas of these seats.
In the 1999 Lok Sabha polls, 74 people were killed in the state. About 20 people were killed in the 2004 general elections and the toll was a staggering 158 during the 2001 panchayat elections.
NEW DELHI: Security agencies suspect that the attack on Nalco's bauxite mine in Orissa's Koraput district on Sunday, where naxalites killed 10 CISF
jawans, could not have happened without `insider' information.
Agencies suspect that somebody in the company or local police might have passed information of movement of explosive laden vehicle -- meant for the mine -- to the Red ultras, leading to hundreds of heavily-armed naxalites attacking the site and looting huge quantity of explosives.
Home ministry officials wondered how such information could be leaked when the movement of vehicles carrying explosives was generally planned secretly considering the vulnerability of such consignment in naxal affected regions.
"CISF, which provides security to the mines, has been asked to probe the matter. Besides, the paramilitary force has also been asked to beef up its security at all PSUs which fall in Red zones," said a senior official.
CISF chief N R Das, meanwhile, rushed to Orissa to take stock of the situation. The home ministry, on its part, provided additional helicopters and other logistics to Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh for stepping up anti-naxal operations in all these states.
These three states have, of late, witnessed spurt in violence, leading to the killing of 28 security personnel (CRPF, CISF and state police) in the past one week — the highest casualties recorded by these forces in the last six months. Incidentally, all the naxal attacks took place in areas which will go to polls in the first phase on April 16.
Admitting that the attacks were planned by ultras to scare people from taking part in elections, home secretary Madhukar Gupta said, "With a view to vitiating the atmosphere, they (Maoists) have not only been holding meetings and putting up posters and banners in certain affected states, but have also indulged in wanton violence during the last couple of weeks."
Putting up a brave face following the reverses, Gupta said "pro-active approach" by paramilitary forces in the run-up to elections had led to spurt in Maoist violence. In these incidents, at least 19 naxals have been killed in the past week and weapons and communication equipment recovered from them, he added.
Meanwhile, keeping in view possibilities of naxal groups disrupting the poll process, the security establishment had alerted all states to take firm measures to prevent such activities.
"The states have been urged to take measures to boost the confidence of the electorate, including steps to counter the propaganda campaign launched by naxals in their bid to deprive people of their democratic rights," Gupta said.
Eighteen naxal-affected parliamentary constituencies will go to polls in the first phase. These constituencies are Khammam, Karimnagar, Mahbubnagar and Warangal in Andhra Pradesh; Chatra, Khunti, Palamau, Kodarma, Lohardaga and Hazaribagh in Jharkhand; Bhandara-Gondia and Gadchiroli-Chimur in Maharashtra; Gaya, Jahanabad and Aurangabad in Bihar; and Koraput, Sambalpur and Sundargarh in Orissa.
Jamshedpur, April 13: During election season, politicians usually take up issues concerning voters. But this summer, they have learnt to skirt the major one: Naxalism.
Irrespective of parties, candidates are engaged in mud-slinging while campaigning, but no one has had the guts to utter the N-word during hectic tours.
Arjun Munda, Suman Mahto, Arvind Singh and Shailendra Mahto, the candidates for BJP, JMM, JVM(P) and Ajsu, respectively, from Jamshedpur have been visiting villages, but with a word of caution.
“Naxalism is very much an issue, but candidates are refraining from making a reference because they fear reprisal if they unknowingly stir up a hornet’s nest,” said a close aide of Suman.
Shailendra had been to the villages of Maoist-hit Dumaria in Ghatshila sub-division yesterday. He said: “Gaon vaale yaha sab sunna nahin chahte. Isliye, hum bhi yaha sab par bolna nahin chahenge (The villagers are not ready to hear anything on Naxalites, therefore I would not like to touch the issue).”
Suman, the sitting MP, whose husband Sunil Mahto was killed by Naxalites in Baguria, near Ghatshila, two years ago, remained silent on the issue. Suman even has not visited Baguria. One of her aides said that she would never go to Baguria. “If she visits Baguria, Suman will have to use venomous words against the rebels — the killers of her husband — and take oath for taking revenge of the killing. And if she makes any adverse comment against the Maoists, it may jeopardise her life,” he said.
Former chief minister Munda, despite getting a Z-plus category security cover, is not daring to utter anything against the Naxalites. Similar is the situation with other contestants.
"We chased them in the forest near Metingi village, which is not far from the Panchpatmali bauxite mine area Monday night," District Superintendent of Police Deepak Kumar told IANS.
"There have been several rounds of exchange of fire between the rebels and security personnel over the past 24 hours. We have also recovered at least five tonnes of explosives from four-five places near this village," he said.
Metingi is 13 km from the bauxite mine in Panchpatmali area that was attacked Sunday night.
Over a hundred armed rebels had laid siege to the mine, some 370 km from here, attacked a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) camp and looted explosives from a depot they were guarding.
At least 10 security personnel and four Maoist rebels were killed in the gun battle that continued for several hours.
"The rebels, before they escaped from the area, had laid land mines in several places, including on the roads. Most of them have been defused," Kumar said.
Public-sector NALCO is Asia's largest integrated aluminium producer. The bauxite from its Panchpatmali mine feeds the refinery at Damanjodi town nearby. The company has stopped mining operations after the attack.
Maoists are active in more than half of Orissa's 30 districts. They have called for a boycott of the Lok Sabha and assembly elections that are to be held simultaneously April 16 and 23.
There have been several Maoist attacks in the state in the past few weeks.
The rebels killed Somnath Madkami, the Samrudha Odisha party's candidate for the Malkangiri assembly constituency, last week. They also blew up several mobile telephony towers in the same district.
It is not the economical status but the ideology or religion that is the reason! - By Indian
Security forces have recovered substantial volume of explosives and arms looted by the Maoists during their daring raid on the Nalco bauxite mine in Koraput district, police said on Tuesday.
Two days after Maoists attacked the mine and gunned down 11 CISF personnel, Central forces today stepped up combing operation in the region to nab the ultras.
"The joint operation by security forces against Maoists has been intensified. It is yielding desired results," said Director General of Police Manmohan Praharaj.
He said substantial volume of explosives and arms looted by the Maoists had been recovered by the security forces but declined to divulge details.
However, police sources said that security personnel have recovered the van containing explosives which had been driven away and abandoned at a secluded place by the ultras.
Though some of the explosives were suspected to have been taken away by the naxals, about 230 boxes containing explosives were recovered by the security forces after a fierce exchange of fire with the fleeing ultras, they said.
A group of armed Maoists swooped on Gosain-Besra village just past midnight and blew up the building of a government primary school housing polling station number 230 of Gaya (SC) parliamentary constituency, police said.
After the attack, they left posters and pamphlets asking people not to participate in the election or be prepared to face the consequences.
In another incident, Naxals torched the campaign vehicle of JD(U) candidate for Karakat parliamentary seat Mahabali Singh in Aurangabad, sources said.
The Maoists beat up Singh's workers sleeping inside the vehicle at Karma-Vishnupur village and hijacked it along with the driver.
They later let off the driver free but set the campaign vehicle on fire at Salaiya village, about two km from Karma-Vishnupur, the sources added. PTI
The naxals also beat supporters of the MLA, who had gone there for campaigning.
Earlier, the district administration had requested the Election Commission (EC) to conduct polls on a separate date in the region since it is highly naxal infested.
However, the EC turned down the request saying providing necessary security for the polls was duty of the administration.
Naxal organizations have already given a poll boycott call and warned of attacks during elections.
Dangs/Ahmedabad: The suspicion of Naxal activity in the Dangs has once again come to the fore after the recent blaze in the tribal area of South Gujarat. Though there have been disruptive activities attributed to the Naxals in the Dangs for more than four decades, no direct link has ever been proved.
The district has witnessed struggle for rights for the last many decades. Poverty and unemployment are widespread and half the population in the district still has to migrate every year in search of food to the bordering Nasik district in Maharashtra.
Noted social worker Ganesh Devy, who works for the uplift of tribals, denies any link between the tribals and Naxals. "If forest officers are claiming that there are anti-social elements or Naxals who set ablaze the forest, then it's a joke. Forest fires are not new in Gujarat. It's a natural accident. I have been working for tribals for the last 30 years and never heard any link between Naxals and tribals," he says.
He says that in Gujarat, tribal areas are totally different from other Naxal-hit parts of the country. "In other states where the Naxal movement has taken roots, the class differences are very sharp, but Dangs and other tribal-dominated areas in Gujarat have not been touched by market forces," he reasons.
The reason for allegations of Naxals' link with tribals is the tribals' continuous struggle for land. "Whenever there is a struggle for their rights by the tribals, the state government officials link it with anti-social elements or Naxals to suppress their demands."
One reason for the possible influence of Naxals in Dangs is the proximity of
Gadhchiroli district of Maharashtra, a hotbed of Naxal activity. Even the tribal-dominated district of Nandurbar, which has seen many Naxal movements in the past, borders Dangs.
"The fear of Naxals in Dangs is exaggerated. There are people who are working for the uplift of marginalised tribals. These tribals don't have even basic amenities of life, and when you raise voice for such a community, people with vested interests oppose. It could be the only reason why they (officials) are speaking of Naxal movement in Dangs," said Bharat Powar, secretary of Dangi Majdoor Union, an outfit of the Communist Party of India (CPI).
On Monday, divisional forest officer (north) CK Sonwane said there were suspicions that three persons in Dangs, in the guise of helping the tribals, might have encouraged them to burn the forest.
When asked if these three people are Naxals, Sonwane said, "They encourage tribals to damage government property and blaze forest so that they can acquire land. Even if they are not Naxals they are anti-social elements. These three persons, namely Avinash Kulkarni, Gulabjeev Pawar and Mangalia Chamariya, instigate the tribals against the government."
However, Avinash Kulkarni, who originally belongs to Belgaum, denied the allegation and said that he was a member of Dangi Majdoor Union and helping the tribals to get land through the Forest Act 2006.
"We are just helping the tribals to avail the benefit of Forest Right Act 2006. We don't have any connection with any Naxals or their movement," he said.