Saturday, December 08, 2007

How chasing Maoists is making Jharkhand cops smarter...

Dipankar Bose

SARANDA, Dec. 8: Jharkhand police have always been in a quandary over this issue. Over the years, they have done their best to tackle the Maoists, but have failed to match the latter’s Intelligence-gathering abilities, guerrilla tactics and strategies that have converted the seven-year-old state into a Maoist den.
Lately, the West Singhbhum district police are facing their worst nightmare ~ a blackout of vital Intelligence inputs about Maoist movements in and around the Saranda forests, one of the several “hyperactive” areas of the extremists. The reason behind the blackout was a calculated move by the Maoists. It is paying rich dividends. After the Chilkhari massacre, where the youngest son of former chief minister Mr Babulal Marandi was murdered with 17 others in Giridih, the Jharkhand home department had issued orders to intensify patrolling and counter-offensive operations across Jharkhand against the Maoists.

Patrolling has been increased in such districts as Latehar, Chatra, Palamu, Lohardaga and parts of Ranchi, where the extremists have strongholds. Bunkers were being destroyed and frequent encounters taking place, with the police nabbing extremists of rank in the banned outfit and also confiscating arms and ammunitions. The tables seemed to be gradually turning against the Maoists but the extremists’ counter-strategy proved more effective, at least in West Singhbhum. Between 18 and 26 November, four people were shot dead by Maoists and all of them were branded “police informers” by the extremists. The persons killed were villagers from in and around Saranda. Two deaths were reported from Tetlighat village and one each from Hathnaburu and Dikubonge villages, all three in the Saranda forest area. Resentment grew in the villages against the police. District administrative bosses huddled to find a solution. Finally it was decided that the police would not entertain village informers here.

They would neither seek assistance from villagers nor take any sort of facilities from them during execution of duty. New guidelines have been issued for long range patrolling personnel here, Mr Sudhir Kumar Jha, SP, West Singhbhum, said.
The guidelines direct LRP personnel to always carry water bottles. The same is applicable for food items. In case of vigilance activities, steps have to be taken clandestinely and with caution. Personnel attached with an LRP group will not patrol the same route for more than two days at a stretch, so that villagers do not get familiar with them. “The recent killings by Maoists targetted policemen on patrol duty. The people murdered had no links with the police and were falsely branded as police informers to create resentment. But at the end, we have limitations and cannot carry out our duties without the local people’s confidence,” Mr Jha said, adding that one of those killed in Tetlighat and identified as Labia Sidue, a local Munda(headman), was a Maoist informer. He also gave them logistic support. The police were keeping a close watch on him and his murder was probably committed to create distrust against the police.

“The villager killed in Hathnaburu had his house on the village periphery. The LRP personnel may have asked for water from him on certain occasions and sought information from him. After the killings, I camped at four police stations in the highly sensitive zones,” Mr Jha said.

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