Saturday, September 04, 2010

Hostage crisis: Why the state is helpless

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is on firm ground when he maintains, in the context of the Naxalites who have killed abducted policemen in the state, “I do not think bargaining after holding people hostage is high ideology.” But Mr Kumar is barking up the wrong tree. The many Naxal groups operating in the country, including in nearly every district in Bihar, are not hankering after ideology, although they seek to occupy the high moral ground in the name of promoting such an ideology.

In general, Naxalites today are neither Robin Hoods nor conscious ideologues of contingents of labouring men and women. There is little alignment between them and even the “bandits” that the historian Hobsbawm wrote about so eloquently. Just as right-wing extremists tend to speak as though they are high priests of culture, and this is typically done to justify their criminal actions or sometimes to glorify these in the eyes of unsuspecting people, left-wing extremists become the self-appointed guardians of the poor, and no poor person dare oppose them for fear of being annihilated. The Bihar Chief Minister, however, appears blissfully unaware of this, or he would not be disdainful toward the Centre’s efforts to coordinate anti-Naxalite actions with state governments.

Countering Naxalism is not easy for any democratic government since its leaders speak in the name of the poor, beguiling many a middle class intellectual with their pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric. It is, therefore, short-sighted of parties such as the RJD and the LJP in Bihar to launch an all-out attack on the Bihar CM for his inability to cope with the menace of Naxalism, in particular his slow-footedness in dealing with them even as the bandits hold policemen hostage in Lakhisarai district in the state. The Opposition leaders clearly wish to exploit the situation for the Assembly election. They forget that they could have been in Mr Kumar’s shoes. The issue the state is confronting is not about to go away in a hurry, and is not unique to Bihar. Nevertheless, it is plain to see that the Bihar government has comprehensively failed in handling the Naxal question. Unlike his counterparts in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, even the beginnings of an effort are not visible.

Mr Kumar has been too busy advertising his efforts at social engineering. In the beginning of his term, hopes were raised that the JD(U)-BJP government would be able to bring the rampant lawlessness under control. That optimism appears to have dissipated. The force is demoralised. It lacks personnel. The police also lack weapons, communications equipment and leadership. As for intelligence, the less said the better. Several days after the policemen abduction drama began, the state government does not have a fix on where the captured policemen have been kept, although the criminals busily use local television stations for propaganda. The net effect of the government’s lax attitude toward policing has emboldened the various Naxal groups. A demoralised state government has now offered talks. It is to be seen if this has any effect on the desperadoes.

Deccan Chronicle

Tiny village awaits a ‘big-hearted Dada’

Amit Gupta

Porhatoli, a humble hamlet of 50 huts and pucca homes, is blinking uneasily under the spotlight of tragedy.

Around 150km away from the capital, near Kolebira in Simdega district, Porhatoli — and its local burial ground — awaits the body of its son Lucas Tete, a jamadar with Bihar Military Police (BMP), who was killed by Naxalites last evening.

Tete’s body was recovered this morning from the forests of Lakhisarai district, five days after his abduction by CPI(Maoist) along with three other policemen, and is expected to reach late tonight.

Porhatoli cannot get over the fact that they saw Tete as recently as on August 23. “Dada visited us recently. He left Porhatoli only on August 23. Whenever he came here, we made merry. He had a big heart,” Tete’s cousin Ragen told The Telegraph.

Tete, who was in his mid-50s, joined BMP more than 35 years ago. As a matriculate, he was recruited as a simple sepoy who was promoted to the rank of havildar and recently, assistant sub-inspector or jamadar.

He is survived by wife Piyari and three daughters, Angela, Manjula and Neelam. Piyari and the daughters, accompanied by two relatives, were sent to Patna yesterday by car, arranged by Jharkhand Party supporters led by general secretary Ashok Bhagat. They will accompany Tete on his last homecoming.

Tete’s is a marginal farmer’s family. “We have very little land. Our harvest yields us sufficient rice for only two or three months. This year, we couldn’t sow any paddy due to meagre rains,” said elder brother William, a sexagenarian who was a home guard in unified Bihar, drawing an unbelievable monthly pay of Rs 60.

Yet, William takes pride that “Lucas gave his life for the country while fighting rebels”. At the same time, his brow clouds with disgust over the way the government handled the abduction.

The tragedy also recalled many to a similar incident a year back, when special branch inspector Francis Indwar was abducted by Maoists in September 2009 from a rural market in rebel-hit Khunti district and beheaded. His decapitated body was recovered days later at Raisa Ghati situated on the NH-33 between Ranchi and Jamshedpur.

Today, condolence messages came pouring in at the Tete residence. “We condemn the killing. Maoists are turning out to be terrorists, killing innocent policemen who were just doing their duty,” said Jharkhand police spokesperson R.K. Mallick.

Simdega SP Anoop Birtharay visited Tete’s home this morning. “The family is grief-struck. We will take part in Tete’s last rites after the body arrives here,” he said.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Maoist arms suppliers held in West Bengal

Two arms suppliers who allegedly catered to the Maoists were arrested early Sunday from West Bengal’s Bankura district, police said.
Biswanath Mondal and Sheikh Amjad were arrested from Bankura district’s Chatna area.

“We have arrested two arms suppliers from Chatna area early Sunday,” Bankura Superintendent of Police Pranab Kumar told IANS over phone.

Fifteen gelatin sticks and 20 detonators were recovered from them, he said.

Maoists are active in three western districts of the state - Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore.

Maoist classes in Tihar

New Delhi, Aug. 28: The battle to control Maoism has reached the Tihar jail’s barracks.

Exasperated prison authorities are thinking of changing Maoist ideologue Khobad Ghandy’s ward after every two months because he has been propagating ultra-Left ideology among fellow inmates.

Ghandy, 63, has built a captive audience inside Jail No. 3 at Tihar, his home for the past 11 months. He meets fellow inmates, who revere him, every day during his morning and evening walks and often holds “interactive sessions”.

He tells them he had fought for the poor throughout his life and that the government had failed to do anything for the people. The prisoners salute him after every session.

“He is a very good man. He is fighting for the poor and we respect him a lot,” said a 35-year-old inmate of Jail No. 3, a Class X dropout who is facing trial for attempted murder.

Another prisoner, arrested in a blast case in Uttar Pradesh, said: “He (Ghandy) is a very well-read man. He talks of revolution and makes us feel we too should do something for the country.”

Ghandy, a CPI (Maoist) politburo member, was arrested in September 2009 and booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

An inmate of Jail No. 1, who met Ghandy three days ago at a basketball match in the prison, said: “We address him as ‘Sir’ and salute him whenever we see him. We can’t understand why the government is holding him in jail as though he is a terrorist.”

The convict, serving a life term for murdering a relative, added: “I am paying for what I did, but people like Sir should not be treated this way. We are fans of his. He speaks from the heart about the injustices suffered by the poor. We support him for his movement against the government.”

Ghandy’s rising popularity among fellow prisoners is worrying Tihar authorities. A jail official said around 1,500 prisoners — 100 convicts and 1,400 undertrials — were lodged in the 12 wards in Jail No. 3. Ghandy shares his ward with many other prisoners.

“He loves mixing with people and has made several friends inside the jail. But of late his conversation has acquired revolutionary overtones,” the official said. “We are thinking of changing his ward every two months and keeping a watch on his morning and evening walks.”

The official, however, agreed that Ghandy, who is from an upper class background and went to the best educational institutions, was a thorough gentleman.

“He is very enthusiastic and agile for his age. During the basketball match, he was joking with jail officials about many things,” said jail superintendent Vijay Kumar Sharma.

Ghandy had studied at Doon School and St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, before travelling to London to become a chartered accountant. A few years later, he joined the Maoists. He is now believed to be writing a book on his life.

The Telegraph