Thursday, April 15, 2010

House-to-house search: Every evening, a ‘routine operation’

Amitabh Sinha Posted online: Thursday , Apr 15, 2010 at 2321 hrs

Dantewada : As darkness settles into this small urban hamlet, a small group of about 20 CRPF personnel, uniformed and armed, start gathering in the local police station. It is time to follow a daily routine — carry out a ‘house-to-house’ search operation in this capital of the Naxal kingdom.

With a local constable from the police station showing them the way, the CRPF personnel, walking, as they always do, in a single file with about 10-15 m distance between each other, pass through the narrow alleys and bylanes of this sleepy town, looking for any suspect person or activity.

“This is just a routine and precautionary action. It’s not an extensive search operation. It’s only about keeping an eye on the town,” says the head of the only police station in the town, D N Nagvanshi.

The evening search is probably the only sign — apart from the large concentration of police forces in the area, of course — of the infamy of this otherwise non-descript town. The search operations have been there for quite some time now, much before the massacre of 76 policemen by the Naxalites in the far-flung forests of this district.

The search team starts with the most important shrine in this town, the temple of Maa Danteshwari Devi, one of the several reincarnations of Goddess Sati from whom this town derives its name, before moving into the residential areas. The checks are not intrusive and they don’t enter any of the houses. Occasionally, they stop to inquire from bystanders and people they find talking in groups. And then they move on.

“They come this side almost everyday. This is nothing unusual for us. They are probably doing their job,” says Poonam, a housewife, who was standing outside her house as the securitymen marched past.

Nagvanshi tells The Indian Express that the constable leading the group knows most of the people of the town and he ensures that genuine residents do not feel unduly harassed during this search and questioning.

The search team, one of the members tells us, keeps itself at the job for anywhere between two to six hours every day and passes through most of the town — the bus station, local market and residential areas. He does not say whether this operation has ever resulted in apprehending any suspected Naxal activists or sympathisers. “But it is good to take precautions and be ready, isn’t it? After all, there is a huge problem here and in neighbouring areas,” he says.

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