Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Sreelatha Menon: Barefoot cops

July 1, 2007

Sreelatha Menon: Barefoot cops

From Andhra Pradesh’s Cobra squads to Bihar’s special police officers, the trend of recruiting poorly-paid, semi-literate people to fight Naxalites is leading to new forms of abuse.

Heard of Cobra squads? They are the ad hoc police in Andhra Pradesh, hired to target Naxalites. These squads have gained notoriety for acting as the state government’s hitmen, used to get rid of people on the government’s hitlist.

They are described as members of a mafia gang, called Black Cobra, which keeps issuing death lists in the media and proceeds to brutally finish those on the lists.

In Chhattisgarh, this work is taken over by SPOs, or special police officers, who in many cases are teenagers — tribal boys and girls in the Naxal-infested northern and southern districts of the state. They are paid a meagre Rs 1,500 a month and their lives are so worthless in the eyes of the government that it does not mind losing any number of them. And they are desperate to earn and so many in number that the areas they live in are a fertile ground for recruitment.

Bihar has, this year, introduced a new law, the Bihar Police Act, 2007, in response to last year’s call by the home ministry that the state respond to the Naxal menace by replicating the Andhra model. The new law empowers the Bihar government to recruit quasi-cops. So just as we have ad hoc semi-literate teachers, ad hoc barefoot doctors, and any variety of barefoot functionaries the government loves to provide to cut costs, the country is now rich in bare-foot cops as well.

The reason is not known, except that they come cheap as they are poor and can be easily turned into powder for the guns to target adversaries, in this case Naxalites.

When the British recruited Indians to fight their wars overseas, it was understandable. Loss of Indian lives didn’t matter much to the British. But why would a state push its untrained citizens to battle its own criminal elements rather than have a proper force to deal with the situation, which needs special socio-economic measures?

The Second Administrative Reforms Commission chaired by Veerappa Moily winks at this abuse of law by various states in the name of enforcing law. Its recent report on public order is silent on this.

In Chhattisgarh, the reason cited is shortage of police force and other resources. But for the public in such states, the police force becomes further alienated. So if a doctor in Bastar is forced to operate on a Naxalite, he dare not let the matter out, lest he be arrested too. Here, the law enforcement machinery works in black and white. It is the rule of terror on people who are already the victims of terrorism.

The Moily report on public order recommends an alternative: direct central deployment of forces. Moily says this should be done only when pubic order is under threat and even when the state does not want central intervention. Gujarat- and Ayodhya-like situations are cited as examples. But again, there is hardly any guarantee against abuse.

Moily and his team have also called for a kinder, gentler police and to make policing a service. The report, released last week, even talks of doing away with constables. It wants only graduate cops to raise the morale of the police. It is unclear how increasing the qualification for joining the police can raise the morale and if removing non-graduate constables will not remove the ability of policemen to connect with the people.

There is again no guarantee that it would stop states from recruiting quasi-cops.

Business Standard

Maoist Economic Blockade a huge success

June 28, 2007

Huge losses as Maoist ‘economic blockade’ ends

New Delhi, June 27 (IANS) A two-day ‘economic blockade’ called by Maoists in six states to protest special economic zones (SEZs) ended Wednesday on a violent note, causing losses of well over Rs.1.5 billion to the economy, officials said.

Although there were only a few incidents of violence, with a railway station torched in West Bengal, the protest crippled normal life in parts of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and West Bengal, proving the rebel clout in impoverished rural areas.

In West Bengal’s Purulia district, about 50 guerrillas set fire to the Station Master’s room at Biramdih railway station around 1.30 a.m. The attack destroyed the signalling system. Biramdih – on the Jharkhand-West Bengal border – is some 285 km from Kolkata.

‘The (rebels) came and scared us away. We watched from a distance as they set the station on fire and fired gunshots in the air,’ said Debasis Roy, a railway employee.

The Maoists shouted anti-government slogans and left behind leaflets and posters listing their demands. Three bombs were also found on railway tracks, a police officer said.

Train services between Bihar and Jharkhand, including the state capitals Patna and Ranchi, were cancelled. Normal life was disrupted in rural areas in four of Bihar’s districts, officials and news reports said.

In Chhattisgarh, now the bloodiest battleground between the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) and security forces, rail and road traffic were badly hit in the southern Bastar region.

Public transport went off the roads and movement of iron ore from Dantewada district’s Bailadila hills to Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh was halted, Girdhari Nayak, the inspector general of police (Maoist operation), told IANS.

Maoists blocked interior pockets of Bastar, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Dantewada and Kanker districts by placing wooden logs on the roads.

In Bihar, shops were closed and buses were off the roads in rural parts of Arwal, Jehanabad and Gaya districts as well as a few pockets in Patna district.

But the protest had no major impact in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. A bus had been set on fire Tuesday in Andhra Pradesh, where the police have gunned down a string of Maoist leaders in recent times.

The blockade was an economic disaster, especially in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

In Jharkhand alone, official estimates put the losses at around Rs.1.5 billion, spread over two days.

The railways have reportedly lost Rs.300 million due to cancellation of goods and passenger trains. At many places the Maoists destroyed railway property. In Latehar district, they burnt two engines and damaged 12 goods train bogies.

Around 1,500 buses did not ply during these two days, causing a loss of Rs.15 million. Trucks stood idle, leading to a loss of Rs.30 million.

The economic blockade also disrupted coal and iron ore production and transport, leading to losses of around Rs.600 million.

Businesses in the state have also been derailed by the blockade. The import and export business has been frozen for the two days causing losses of around Rs.500 million to traders, said a member of the Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce.

In Jharkhand, for the second day, rail and road traffic came to a complete halt. In rural areas, schools as well as colleges remained closed. Ranchi University has postponed examinations for postgraduate courses.

The CPI-Maoist called for the blockade to denounce SEZs. The party said SEZs were coming up on land taken away from farmers and being given away to industry at throwaway prices.

The police in West Bengal hunted for the attackers of the railway station, according to Inspector General of Police Jogesh Chattopadhayay. Meanwhile, shopkeepers kept their shops shut in the state’s Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore districts.

Most of Left-ruled West Bengal was, however, unaffected by the blockade.

Orissa police chief Amarananda Patnaik told IANS Wednesday: ‘There is absolutely no incident. Everything is peaceful and normal today.’

Thousands have been killed by the Indian state since the Maoist rebellion began in 1967 in a village in West Bengal. The Maoists are now active in many states.

m&c

MARKED

May 25, 2007

MARKED

Widely believed to be the next targets of the Chhattisgarh government’s mission against Naxal “sympathisers” and “informants”, these four, like Binayak Sen, have dedicated their lives to working with the state’s tribals

Gautam Bandopadhyay
Nadi Ghati Morcha

Is the founder president of the Nadi Ghati Morcha, an organisation that has been opposing the sale of the Shivnath river to a company called Radius Water. He is very popular amongst adivasis and has been working with them for many years, especially in the Sitanadi area.

Rashmi Dwivedi
PUCL

An activist who has been working with the Baiga tribe for many years in the Lormi tribal area, which falls between Kawardha and Bilaspur. She is vehemently opposed to mining in Dulduli by the Vedanta group. The mining is resulting in large-scale displacement of the Baiga tribes, as is the policy of driving out tribals from the Kanha-Kisli and other national parks

Ratneshwar Nath
Parivartan

Married to Rashmi Dwivedi, Nath runs Parivartan, a non-government organisation based in Kanker, headquarters of what used to be the Bastar district. For over 30 years, he has worked on forest and rights issues. Trains tribals for self-employment since their land is being denied to them as part of the Malik Makbooja scam in which Salwa Judum leader Mahendra Karma is one of the accused

Rajendra Sail
PUCL

President of the PUCL Chhattisgarh, he is one of the founders of the civil liberties group. Founded in June 1977, PUCL is India’s foremost human rights advocacy group. Sail has also been associated with the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha. Shankar Guha Niyogi was a close associate of his. Niyogi was murdered in 1991, allegedly by an industrial group

Tehelka

March of the Red brigade ‘Naxalite bomb ticking’

May 25, 2007

March of the Red brigade ‘Naxalite bomb ticking’

New Delhi, May 22: The Centre’s barometer on ultra-Left militancy has just registered a quantum jump — Naxalites have widened their network across 183 districts in 16 states — more than three-times the geographical spread estimated two years ago.

An internal assessment report prepared by the Union home ministry on the Naxalite situation now lists Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi as the states where Naxalites have “established new bases by setting up regional and district-level centres”.

It is, however, strange how Kerala, which is known for having an established base of Naxalites for many years now, figured in the list of new areas of operation.

In a similar assessment in 2005, the Centre had estimated Naxalite presence in 55 districts in seven states. The Union home ministry claimed only marginal increase in Naxalism in its status report on internal security released in April this year.

According to home ministry figures, incidents of Naxalite violence actually went down from a high of 1,608 in 2005 to 1,509 in 2006, though the number of police personnel killed registered a marginal increase — from 153 in 2005 to 157 in 2006.

The situation is becoming critical if one looks at the increasing sway of the red corridor. “Violence is not the immediate aim of the Maoists; they take it up as a last resort when their hegemony in an established area such as Chhattisgarh is challenged. The worrying factor is that the plan to increase their area of activity is working perfectly. It could become impossible to contain them once they decide to hit at many places suddenly,” said the senior home official.

Likewise, the strength of the armed Maoist cadre has also gone up phenomenally — from 8,000 in 2005 to 11,000 in 2006, to 15,000 in 2007. “Almost 90 per cent of the armed cadre strength is from the erstwhile MCCI and PWG, while the rest comes from 34 other organisations. These other groups are playing a crucial role in setting up the bases and enlisting new cadres in the new areas,” said the official. Naxalites are looking at the issues of Dalits, minorities, tribals and women to increase their area of activity.

The Telegraph

‘Naxalites in touch with militants’

May 16, 2007

‘Naxalites in touch with militants’

NEW DELHI: The government on Tuesday informed Parliament that naxalites were working in close coordination with some terrorist outfits operating in J&K and were also in touch with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka.

“Though the government has no documentary evidence of any memorandum of understanding signed between international terror outfits with naxalites in the country, we have enough information suggesting that there is coordination between them,” home minister Shivraj Patil said in the Lok Sabha during zero hour.

Patil said it was difficult for the government to interfere in security matters in some states as the dispensation there did not take it very kindly. He said this in an oblique reference to the naxalite problem in Chhattisgarh, which, according to him, accounted for 40%-60% of all Naxal incidents in the country.

He said the government had provided UAVs to anti-naxal paramilitary forces deployed in the state which has so far only been used by the Army to gather intelligence on movement of ultras.

Meanwhile, minister of state for home Sriprakash Jaiswal said cases of foreign funding for terrorists in Kashmir had increased in the last three years. In a written response to a question in the Lok Sabha, the minister said some expatriate Kashmiri and other Muslim organisations abroad were involved in channeling funds to terrorist outfits in J&K.

According to the figures tabled in Lok Sabha, 16 cases of foreign funding were reported in 2006 against 12 in 2005 and four in 2004. Jaiswal said the government had constituted a Special Economic Intelligence Cell to obtain hard and actionable inputs on terrorist funding.

Toiletpaper of India

AITUC blames UPA for growing Maoist movements

May 16, 2007

India’s largest trade union blasts CPM and UPA government

The rapid expansion of the Maoist movement across India is not occurring without reason. The UPA government’s apparently pro-rich economic policies coupled with the failure of the Left parties to expand their support base have combined to a provide a surge to the violent movement, the Left-affiliated All India Trade Union Congress(AITUC)said on Tuesday.

The spread of “political extremism” was one issue discussed at general council meeting of AITUC, which is affiliated to the CPI and is currently the largest Left trade union, held in the capital on May 6 and 7. This is the first time that an affiliate of the CPI, which is considered to be more sympathetic to the Maoist movement compared to CPI(M), has connected the spread of Naxalism to the failure of the Left and trade unions to provide a platform to the poor.

“If organised democratic movement, trade union action, struggle of the peasantry cannot take meaningful shape, political extremism is bound to spread. What is alarming is that extremism has already been able to set its foot in about 168 districts out of 600 districts in the country,” AITUC general secretary and CPI MP, Gurudas Das Gupta, said.

Das Gupta said in a situation of growing dissatisfaction among the under-privileged, it is essential that a trade union movement spearheads the battle against unemployment and violation of labour laws among unorganised labour and farmers, which provide a catchment sectors for political extremism.

“If India has attained high growth rate of more than 9 per cent, the beneficiary is only 0.2 per cent of population. While the government claims that 47 million jobs have been created during the Xth five-year plan, unemployment has increased to 3.06 per cent. The manufacturing sector has lost over 3 per cent jobs and the annual growth of employment in the organised sector has turned negative and the same is the condition in the public sector,” Das Gupta said.

The council also discussed the waning of Congress’s influence and the consequent strengthening of BJP. “While BJP is seeking to exploit the discontent of the people, the Congress refuses to learn its lessons. It appears to be in disarray,” Das Gupta said.

Hindustantimes

MPs, MLAs on Naxal hit list

May 8, 2007

MPs, MLAs on Naxal hit list



New Delhi: The Naxal menace is spreading across the country. In March, this year Naxals gunned down Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s Lok Sabha member Sunil Mahto from Jamshedpur along with his two bodyguards and a JMM worker, when he was on a visiting Baguria village as the chief guest of an exhibition football match on Holi.

Now documents available exclusively with CNN-IBN show that the intelligence agencies have warned that Naxals have many more Members of Parliament and Members of Legislatives Assemblies of different states on their hit-list.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy and West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee are some of the prominent names on the list.

The documents also show that the UPA government has admitted that it has failed to contain the terror of the Naxals.

But the flip side to the intelligence warnings is official figures which point to the fact that Naxal menace is on the decline.

Union Home Ministry’s figures say “Naxal violence has shown a decrease of 6.15 per cent in 2006 over 2005 and also in the first half of 2007”.

However, an internal note circulated within the government shows that the UPA government has admitted that despite police action Naxal activities are on the rise.

On the other hand the stain of Red terror is spreading on the ground – a truth that the government refuses to acknowledge publicly.

A secret document circulated in last week’s high-level meeting between the Union Government, and police chiefs of 16 Naxal-affected states in the country clearly admit that “despite concerted police action, several development initiatives, planned public perception management and people’s resistance, the Naxal activities are increasing.”

But Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta says, “These statistics does not really mean anything”.

And despite several such meetings over the past three years, no coordinated approach has yet been taken to tackle the spread of Naxal violence.

In fact the document clearly shows that the government is concerned that “Naxalites continue to carry out well-planned and coordinated attacks along military lines”.

It’s clear that the government is concealing a very grim reality, a reality that might soon force the government take a re-look of the policies to tackle the Naxalites.

US names ULFA, CPI (Maoist) as Groups of Concern

May 3, 2007

US names ULFA, CPI (Maoist) as Groups of Concern

Washington, May 2: The US has designated India’s banned United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and the Communist Party of India (Maoist) as Groups of Concern.

Besides these two, 41 other active groups from across the world figure in this list released by the US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism, 2006 on Monday.

The report says that that Communist Party of India (Maoist), formed with the merger of the Maoist Communist Center of India (MCCI) and the People’s War (PW) in September 2004, continues to employ violence to achieve its goals of peasant revolution, abolition of class hierarchies, and expansion of Maoist-controlled “liberated zones,” eventually leading to the creation of an independent “Maoist” state.

It says that the CPI (Maoist) reportedly has a significant cadre of women. And, its important leaders include Ganapati (the PW leader from Andhra Pradesh), Pramod Mishra, Uma Shankar, and P.N.G. (alias Nathuni Mistry, arrested by Jharkhand police in 2002).

“Although difficult to assess (its strength) with any accuracy, media reports and local authorities suggest the CPI’s (Maoist) membership may be as high as 31,000, including both hard-core militants and dedicated sympathizers,” the report says.

It notes that the Maoist group has loose links to other such groups in the region, including the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), but does not appear dependent on outside sources of support.

dailyindia.com

Callous about Maoist terror

April 30, 2007

Callous about Maoist terror
Hyena Gill

There is much focus now on the Maoist threat in India and, despite entirely inconsistent assessments by various Government agencies, an increasing consensus around the view that this is the greatest internal security challenge confronting the country. At the same time – and particularly in the aftermath of the major incidents that are all-too-frequently engineered by the Maoists – there is rising concern at the ‘police failure’ or ‘security forces failure’ to contain this rising menace.

It needs to be recognised at the outset that a professional and motivated police force, with a sufficient numerical strength and adequate material and technological resources, and with a clear political mandate, can defeat any insurgency in India, including this latest bogey – the Maoist ‘protracted war’. If there is a failure to contain and defeat the Maoists, it is because the necessary capacities and mandate are deliberately kept in abeyance; indeed, the limited and entirely deficient capacities that do currently exist are systematically undermined by a cabal of corrupt political, administrative and police leaderships that have developed a deep vested interest in the persistence of the Maoist insurgency. Unless the dynamics of the implicit or explicit nexus between this leadership group and Maoist violence is understood and neutralised, an effective strategy to defeat the Naxalites can neither be framed, nor implemented.

The reality of the situation on the ground – irrespective of the theoretical and supposedly ideological constructs that are given currency in the mock discourse among the ‘intelligentsia’ – is that this is a fight between two corrupt entities that find mutual benefit and enrichment in fake engagements which can be sustained in perpetuity. A few hapless members of the constabulary and subordinate ranks in the security forces, and equally luckless cadres of the so-called revolutionaries are, of course, killed off from time to time. But no one is really concerned about the occasional massacre – despite the brouhaha that is raised in the media after each major incident.

Fatality figures, in fact, can be used to support whatever thesis is calculated to augment the flow of funds to personal or party coffers. A close scrutiny of the operational situation and the conditions under which the forces are working will demonstrate unambiguously that, in most States and areas, nothing really changes on the ground in the wake of major incidents.

This is the reason why almost no State – and some have been at it for 40 years and more – has been able to entirely and permanently eradicate Left-wing extremism. The Maoist movement, over the past decades, has steadily augmented to attain the status of a massive trans-State exercise in organised extortion and protection racketeering. And everywhere, opportunistic alliances between the Maoists and ‘overground’ political parties and entities are in place, most visibly around each electoral exercise, but in a constant intercourse at all times.

Almost all political parties have become mirror images of each other in India today, but in this regard they are even more so, with a multiplicity of corrupt parties and organisations woven together in a complex tapestry of duplicity and fraud that entrenches the ruling elite – an elite that grows increasingly more dynastic in all parties over time. Small cabals of violently criminal adventurers manage to break into the charmed circle of political privilege, from time to time, by their sheer ferocity and lack of restraint. The Maoist leadership and the many criminals in the State and national legislatures fall, naturally, into the latter category.

Drumming up a sense of crisis has become an integral part of the efforts at ‘resource mobilisation’ in this broad enterprise, and that is why the ‘developmental solution’ to Naxalism finds such strong advocacy among political leaders and state bureaucracies everywhere. Long years ago, Rajiv Gandhi noted that barely 15 paisa in each rupee of developmental funding actually reached its intended beneficiaries; the rest was swallowed up by the black hole of ‘power brokers’. In insurgency affected areas, the proportion of developmental funds that is actually utilised for intended purposes would be even smaller – virtually the entire sums, totalling thousands of crores, find their way into the pockets of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and their hangers on, and through their symbiotic relationship with the ‘insurgents’ into the pockets of the Maoists as well.

Among the multiplicity of reasons for the military debacle in the Indo-China war of 1962, it was found that the Border Roads Organisation had ‘constructed’ many roads that existed only on maps, but of which there was no evidence on the ground. Forty-five years later, the same formula is now being applied in Naxalite areas, and it is difficult even to imagine how much of the exchequer’s money has been spent on roads that were never constructed, but for which payments have been made and distributed among the local ‘stakeholders’, with the Naxalites cornering a considerable share to bolster up their ‘revolution’.

The Centre now underwrites virtually all security related expenditure in Maoist afflicted States, providing support for police modernisation and force augmentation. Yet, States fail to create the necessary capacities to counter the Maoist threat. Even where significant disbursal of such funds occurs, their utilisation remains inefficient, and diversion to other, often unauthorised uses, is endemic.

The tragedy of existing or newly created capacities is as great. The State police leaderships are raising new battalions of armed forces, but recruitment is marred by widespread bribery. You cannot expect a man who secures his position in a police force through bribery to actually risk his life fighting the Naxalites. So the next stage is inevitable: Policemen pay bribes to the police leadership to secure postings outside the Naxalite affected ‘conflict’ areas, and in ‘soft’ areas and duties. The amounts collected through these and other ‘administrative’ channels – including the continuous business of transfers and postings – total in the hundreds of crores, and are naturally shared with the political leadership that enables corrupt officers to retain ‘lucrative’ positions, where they can continue with this despicable commerce. That is why, even in State’s where there has been a visible augmentation of forces over the past years, deployment in the ‘conflict’ areas remains disproportionately deficient.

These are ‘snapshots’ of the objective situation on the ground. How are we to extricate the nation from this predicament? The cabals that are currently exploiting the situation to the hilt will have to be broken. The right individuals – from constables to the highest force commanders – will have to be identified and correctly located. Political leaders will have to look beyond party coffers and the next election, to a future in which people can live without fear. If this does not happen, the corrupt state will continue to fight the corrupt ‘revolutionary’, with mounting casualties in widening theatres, till the collapse of governance reaches a point where the venality of the national elite threatens its own existence.

Pioneer

Panel for unified command in naxal-hit states

April 30, 2007

Panel for unified command in naxal-hit states

New Delhi, April 27 (PTI): A Parliamentary Standing Committee has suggested creation of a Unified Command common to all naxal-affected states and implementation of a coastal security scheme in view of “greater risk” of infiltration from coastal belts.

“The naxal activities have spread to more than 12 states and are reported to be having links with external agencies including ISI,” the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs said in its 126th report on Thursday.

The Committee in its 66-page report said taking into account the growth and influence of the naxal groups in several states and the grave threat posed by it to internal security, it is high time that the Ministry constitute a Unified Command to effectively tackle the menace.

The Hindu