Saturday, May 01, 2010

Red alert in Congress as Jharkhand workers quit after Naxal threats

Manoj Prasad Posted online: Sunday , May 02, 2010 at 0310 hrs

New Delhi/Ranchi : While a section of the Congress led by Digvijay Singh has questioned Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s anti-Naxal policy, the party has asked Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren to provide “protection” to Congress workers in the state who are resigning en masse following threats from Maoists. Party leaders have also apprised Chidambaram of this issue.

Last month, CPI(Maoist) put up posters and distributed pamphlets in Palamau, Garhwa, Latehar and East Singhbhum districts of Jharkhand telling Congressmen to quit the party or face the consequences. “If you don’t leave the party and tell its leaders to stop Operation Greenhunt, be prepared to get shortened by six inches from the top,” stated a hand-written CPI(Maoist) poster found in Palamau district on April 24.

“It is a fact that our workers in Jharkhand are resigning from the party due to threats from Naxals, although it is becoming less now. One of our party workers was even killed by Maoists in Jamshedpur recently. It is a serious issue and we are looking into it,” said K Keshava Rao, who is the AICC leader in charge of Jharkhand.

He was referring to the March 28 incident in which Gobardhan Mahali, the Congress Dalbhumgarh block president in East Singhbhum district, was gunned down, reportedly by the CPI(Maoist)’s squad led by Kundan Pahan.

“Jharkhand PCC president Pradeep Balmuchu met Home Minister P Chidambaram to take up this issue. Earlier, he and the Congress Legislature Party leader even met the Chief Minister to seek protection for our workers. We want the state government to protect out party workers,” said Rao.

Incidentally, on April 15, Rao had stated in the Rajya Sabha that Maoists were “no enemies” and there was need to talk to “Naxalite friends”. Speaking to The Sunday Express today, he said: “What we are saying about other states is different. But in Jharkhand they (Maoists) have to be dealt with firmly.”

It was against this backdrop that the Congress high command was learnt to have refused to break bread with Soren after the BJP threatened to withdraw support. Soren is perceived to be soft on Naxals and has been reluctant to cooperate with the Centre in its offensive against Maoists.

Although the Congress has not compiled the actual figures, there have been daily reports about Congress workers resigning in different parts of the state. The Jharkhand PCC had earlier set up a five-member panel to look into the issue. “We have prepared a report and submitted it to the party leadership,” said the panel’s convenor, Radha Krishna Kishore.

“Nobody can be expected to do party work at the cost of one’s life,” said Javed Alam, who resigned as the party’s Manika block president in Palamau recently.

“We have issued instructions that the safety of partymen working at the grassroot level must be ensured,” said state DGP Neyaz Ahmad. But Congress workers remain apprehensive about their safety.

In Jharkhand, 22 out of 24 districts have been identified as Maoist-infested and 2,200 out of 3,500 panchayats are categorised as “most affected”.

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