Arms found in well behind Gadchiroli police headquarters
NAGPUR/GADCHIROLI: In a puzzling development, a cache of arms and ammunition has been found in an abandoned 30-feet well barely 200m behind the police headquarters in Gadchiroli. The security agencies deployed in the Naxal-infected district suspect an insider’s hand but are not completely sure yet. The cops have recovered 513 live cartridges of 9mm pistol, 7.62mm self-loading rifles, AKM, INSAS and .303 rifles.
Other material includes two 40mm under barrel grenade launcher (UBGL), two live grenades, 48 project para-cell (night flares), 78 spent cartridges, a 7.62mm SLR magazine, a walkie-talkie battery, a 51mm mortar HE bomb case, a detonator box and other ammunitions. It was a lucky discovery for the cops. A dispute over the land between two brothers, one of whom is involved in Anti-Naxal Operations as part of the C-60 commandos, resulted in an expert being called to survey the land.
The well is not completely visible from the police HQ as it is screened by a weir in a pond. One of the brothers first spotted some ammunition lying outside the well which had about 6 feet of water. He immediately alerted the police HQ. Senior officers reached the spot and decided to drain out the water. The discovery left everyone stunned. Gadchiroli SP Mohammed Suwez Haque said that the mystery would be cracked soon.
“We have a fair idea on who could be behind the incident. Police experts are examining the arms and ammunition to ascertain their origin,” he said. TOI learns that the arms and ammunition of the district police, which is forever engaged in battles with the Naxals, are kept at secret locations in Gadchiroli town, from where they are distributed. However, senior officials also feel that the possibility of Naxals or some of their conduits hiding the arms and ammunitions for future use cannot be ruled out. Police are also probing if someone from the department had tried to smuggle the arms to help the Naxals.
Maoists blame surrendered leader for Kishenji’s death
An “internal inquiry commission” of the CPI (Maoist) has blamed Suchitra Mahato, once a dreaded underground leader, for the death of politburo member Kishenji in an alleged encounter in Junglemahal in November 2011. Four months after Kishenji’s death, Mahato surrendered before Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Writers Buildings in March 2012. Branding her as a “traitor”, the CPI (Maoist) central committee has approved “retaliation” against those involved in the “conspiracy”, saying they will be “punished when the time comes”. The “inquiry commission” has said Mahato, who was believed to be with Kishenji during his last few days, lured him into a trap laid by security forces.
The “internal inquiry” has also identified the chief minister as “one of the chief conspirators”, and warned that she will not be “spared”. Significantly, a day after the attack on the Congress rally in Chhattisgarh recently, Banerjee had said, “If I die, there are people to take the Trinamool Congress ahead. I have a hand-picked team of about 90 people who will take the party forward.” Her comment was believed to have been provoked by the security threat. Her security has since been stepped up. Top Maoist sources told The Sunday Express that senior leaders inquired into the circumstances surrounding Kishenji’s death.
About a month before the alleged encounter, the CPI (Maoist) central committee reportedly lost communication with Kishenji, and received reports that he was in “touch” with the political leadership of Junglemahal and was working towards a “truce” with the government. According to the “inquiry report”, Kishenji was killed by security forces after he was “trapped by the state government, using some of the senior Maoist leaders”. The inquiry reportedly found that Mahato had persuaded Kishenji to move to the Binpur area in Junglemahal, where he was eventually killed. Moreover, in the last fortnight or so before he was killed, while Kishenji reportedly kept his phones switched off fearing that the security forces would track his movements, Mahato, who was accompanying Kishenji, had kept her cellphone on, says the report.
The report also has a reference to the Naxalbari movement, during which Deepak Biswas, a close associate of Naxal leader Charu Majumdar, was identified as a “traitor” after the latter’s arrest in 1972. Biswas was later murdered in Siliguri. While Mahato is reported to be living in a “safe house” provided by the government, Maoist sources said, “Police claim she is in a transit camp in the police headquarters in West Midnapore district. But we know where she is.” While 32 of the 40 Maoists who have surrendered so far have been inducted as homeguards, Mahato is not among them.
“Mahato runs a very high security threat, that is why the government needs to protect her the most. After a recent intelligence report, we have stepped up her security,” said a senior police official. “All the surrendered Maoists run security threats. But the threat perception varies from case to case. The risk is minimum for those who were inducted as homeguards. But there are some senior leaders who are high risk, and the government is doing everything to protect them,” said Siddhinath Gupta, IG, Western Range. Silda to Sankrail, named in 20 cases SUCHITRA Mahato has more than 20 cases against her, including murder, sedition and arson.
She is said to have led the 2009 operation in which the Sankrail police station in-charge was abducted, and two policemen were killed. She was also named in the Silda case in which 25 EFR personnel were killed in 2010. While she was earlier married to Maoist leader Sashadhar Mahato, she later married Prabir Garai, with whom she surrendered.
Guwahati Central Jail: Alert after Maoist’s escape bid
GUWAHATI, June 8 – An alert has been sounded in all prisons, particularly those housing Maoist cadres in the State, after an escape bid by a hardcore Maoist leader last evening in the Guwahati Central Jail was foiled and incriminating documents were recovered from inside the jail premises. Ajay Chandra, the Maoist leader, headed the rebel outfit in Assam prior to his arrest in Kolkata. He was also looking after the arms supply section of the outfit. Assam prisons at present house over 45 Maoists cadres, of which nine are currently lodged in the Guwahati Central Jail. “It is certainly a disturbing development.
More than the escape bid, it would be vital to unearth the route through which those documents were procured inside the jail premises,” official sources told The Assam Tribune. Maoist activities are believed to have grown in Assam, with the State even pleading with the Centre to declare a number of areas as Maoist-affected to facilitate development in those areas. Jail authorities claimed that Maoist leader Ajay Chandra alias Raj alias Indranil Chandra, who was arrested in connection with three cases in May 2012, was about to execute a jail-break with the help of 28-feet-long rope, which was recovered during a routine check.
The Maoist leader was arrested in July in connection with Special Operation Unit Police Station case number 1/2011, National Investigation Agency case number 1/2012 and Fatasil Ambari Police Station case number 274/2012 under section 120(B)/121/121(A)/122/123/384 of Indian Penal Code read with section 10/13 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Following the developments, the Superintendent of the Guwahati Central Jail reviewed the security arrangements and apprised the Inspector General of Prisons and Senior Superintendent of Police (City) about the incident. IG (Prisons) PP Barooah told this reporter that the incident is of sensitive nature and “we are doing whatever is needed to ensure that they don’t recur.” This is arguably the first time that a jail-break attempt involving Maoists has come to the fore in the State. More than 40 incidents of jail-break attempts were executed successfully in the last eight years, most numbers being reported in Karimganj district jail.
India next after PRISM: govt can soon legally read your mail
Do you browse civil rights sites? Often enter Niyamgiri or Kudankulam as search words? Call, text or mail friends reminding them about that weekly visit to the local slum to distribute medicines or teach kids? Or blog and tweet angrily about the live skeletons you encountered during a jungle holiday in a tribal belt? You better watch out. Yesterday, The Guardian exposed how British agencies used the top-secret American eavesdropping program ‘PRISM’ — that carries out extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information of virtually anyone anywhere in the world — to spy on its citizens.
While the outrage in the UK already has the David Cameron government on the back foot and there is anxiousness among Indian netizens, few at home notice that India itself is not far behind on this dangerous global trend. This April, our government started putting in place its Central Monitoring System to get access to everything in the country’s telecommunication network, ranging from your emails, social media exchanges, web browsing history, chats to phone calls and text messages. Forget public debates, not even Parliament had an opportunity to debate the move. Nobody, however, can complain about this mega anti-privacy mechanism which is perfectly legal on paper. Then information technology minister Milind Deora told Parliament last December that the Rs 400 crore monitoring system would “lawfully intercept internet and telephone services”.
Indeed, India’s Information Technology Act 2000 has been amended twice in 2008 and 2011 and allows government officials to access personal emails, phone calls or text messages as part of reasonable security practices and procedures. The ‘reasonability’ remains conveniently undefined and depends on official discretion. So what exactly does the government want to listen in on? Why do the human rights groups deny it the benefit of doubt in this age of terror?
Anyway, why should you worry if you do not have something criminal to hide? Well, you could be jailed for life for, if nothing else, “exciting disaffection” — which includes “disloyalty and all feelings of enmity” — towards the government. Section 124A of the IPC has remained unchanged since 1870 when the British framed the all-encompassing Sedition Act. It says “whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years to which fine may be added”. Prominent freedom fighters including Mohandas Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak were booked under Section 124A during the raj.
In the recent years, sedition charges have been slapped on paediatrician Dr Binayak Sen (for trying to improve public health standards in the state-forsaken hinterlands), writer Arundhati Roy (for repeating Jawaharlal Nehru’s view that accession of a disputed territory cannot be against the wishes of the people) and young Aseem Trivedi (for drawing an aesthetically-challenged and inconsequential cartoon). The latest in the government’s arsenal is the all-season-any-reason invocation of the Maoist spectre. The first widely publicised case was that of Kamlesh Painkra in Chhattishgarh.
A grassroots reporter, Painkra was the first journalist to report the gross human rights violations of the state militia called Salwa Judum in 2005. He was promptly dubbed a Maoist. His brother, a teacher, was arrested on charges of sheltering Naxalites and Painkra’s PDS licence, the family’s main source of income, was cancelled. Fearing death in a staged encounter, he left Chhattisgarh and the CRPF demolished his house in Bijapur to build a volleyball court for its jawans. In 2009, Laxman Choudhury, a stringer with a vernacular newspaper in Odisha’s Gajapati district, was charged with having links to Maoists for writing on the police-drug mafia connection.
He was booked under Sections 120 (B) and 124(A) — criminal conspiracy and sedition — for apparently receiving eight Maoist leaflets sent through a bus conductor and made to spend 10 weeks in jail before the high court granted him bail. In March 2010, Gujarat police arrested Niranjan Mahapatra, a freelance journalist, for his alleged involvement with the Maoists. Gujarat police said they recovered plenty of Maoist literature written in Oriya from his rented accommodation, that Mahapatra was associated with a workers union, used to visit demolition sites in slums and networked with the affected, and that his source of income could not be immediately ascertained. And yes, his neighbours apparently told the cops that his house often remained locked for 15-20 days. Did you ever imagine that any of this could make a journalist a Maoist?
Then again, journalists have not been the only targets. In April 2010, Sunil Mandiwal, an assistant professor of Delhi University, was detained twice by the police for suspected links with Maoists. As usual, the cops claimed they recovered “Left-leaning” literature and books from Mandiwal’s home, which, for them, was evidence enough. In June 2010, scientist Nisha Biswas, college professor Kaniska Chowdhury and writer Manik Mondal were arrested for visiting West Bengal’s Lalgarh area where they were surveying the severity of state-sponsored atrocities carried out by the central-state joint forces.
Their crime included participation in street corner meetings organized by various human rights and resistance groups including the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA). In July, Debalina Chakraborty, a student of Jadavpur University, went on an indefinite fast after the state CID dubbed her a Maoist leader. Chakraborty, secretary of a women’s organisation working in tribal areas of Nandigram and Lalgarh, was booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) by the cops after they recovered a letter from a Maoist courier written by one “Debu”. Such instances are too many but for want of space, let’s jump to more recent ones.
In December 2012, Kerala police arrested Gopal, a former scientist of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, and six others and booked them under the UAPA as Maoists. While Gopal was a vocal member of the Committee for the Protection of Civil Liberties (PUCL) in Tamil Nadu, others were active student union members and took part in various protest movements such as the anti-Kudankulam agitation. Only last week, Anam Vivekananda Reddy, MLA from Nellore rural, dubbed Telangana Joint Action Committee chairman professor M Kodandaram a “terrorist” who was “preaching terrorism to students instead of giving lessons”. The professor, Reddy told the media, was working to strengthen the Maoists and deserved exemplary punishment including termination of his job at Osmania University.
Not all of us join rallies against injustice — social, environmental, political or economic — or visit slums and villages to help out the victims of a lopsided system. But most of us have a thing or two to say about the affairs of the state and those occupying our public offices. Not all of them use sanitised language in personal communications. Now that the biggest of brothers have built the capacity to snoop on every spoken and written word, even the most casual and inconsequential comments can be used against you. Going by the instances cited above, and the sarkari sleuth’s ingenious ability to make a travesty of truth and common sense, most of us may soon qualify to be a Maoist, a sympathizer or, at any rate, merit a sedition complaint. It will all depend on if and when the authorities have scores to settle or need a few scapegoats.
Deep inside rebel territory where insurgents celebrated the May 24 attack with cries of ‘Long Live Mao!’
Deep inside the forests, at the Maoist camps in Gariaband about 100km from Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur, there were celebrations over the successful attack on Congress leaders. This was after May 25.The party cadres, some of them new recruits, shouted ‘Long Live Mao!’ in full-throated unison. The excitement was palpable. But the fight against the ‘enemy’ was far from over. Plans were already being made for future strikes. Surrounded by the forest and secured by his cadres, commander of the zonal committee Jaani Salaam was thinking ahead on the execution of the plans and a hit list. The terrain Entering Maoist territory and meeting the top commanders involves both tact and toughness. The camps lay beyond Gariaband, which was been formed two years ago and has been the block headquarters of Raipur. It took a 40 km walk from there to reach the camp.
Even though rich in flora and fauna, lack of electricity, water, roads and hospitals makes it a laggard on the development front. This is where the Gariaband-Manpur diamond mine is located. From the time that Chhattisgarh was still a part of Madhya Pradesh, locals and foreign companies have been eyeing the mine. At present it is in possession of the Chhattisgarh Mines and Mineral Department – at least legally. In truth, the Maoists control it. The government proposes to have a wildlife sanctuary in this area and a large area here has been earmarked for the Udanti Tiger Reserve. This too has pitted the government against the Reds who are against the reserve.
To send a harsh message to the government, the Maoist central committee has established a new dalam, or armed squad, named Gariaband-Manpur Zonal Committee. Gariaband, Dhamtari and Mahasamund districts come under this committee. The border areas of Orissa run along Mahasamund and provide an easy escape route for the Maoists. A year ago, the Gariaband area had witnessed a Maoist ambush of a Congress convoy. State congress president Nand Kumar Patel had been a target on that occasion too and had a narrow escape. On May 25, he did not carry the same luck and was among those killed by the Reds. Geographically, the area is significant for the Left extremists because of the proximity to Raipur.
A man was waiting at the assigned location. He would be the guide for meeting the Reds at their camp. He was joined by a member of a sangham, or village committee. There are strict rules on entering Maoist territory – cameraman Mahendra Kumar was ordered to return. The guide explained that the senior (Dada) had instructed him not to allow the cameraman into the den. “If you need a cameraman they will provide one for you at the site. You come with your tape only,” he said. Four other men came along the way, each one leading the way deeper into the forests. About 22 km inside, and finally it was at the heart of Maoist stronghold. But this was not a walk in the park. Reaching the Maoist den meant hiding from the security forces and the police as well.\
Entry to the camp offered the chance to see how the Reds operated, their programming and planning. Jaani Salaam was there. His mother tongue is Telugu and he clearly had little appreciation of the workings of a democracy. He knew who had to be eliminated and where violence would be let loose. He made it clear that his dalam would kill Salwa Judum activists.
There was more. It was not just about boycotting elections – both Congress and BJP workers are to be targeted and there is a hitlist in place. Forest department officials are on their radar too, for marking land for the tiger reserve. “We are opposing the tiger project because it will displace the tribals from their habitat,” said Salaam, “The BJPled state government, and Raman Singh himself, will make this a police district.
Thousands of policemen are deputed in Manpur, forcing the tribals to move to other places. Raman Singh’s government is plotting against us. “They come at night, arrest poor people, thrash them, label them as Naxals, put them in jails or kill them in staged encounters. Once a boy was called to the police station to be questioned on whether he knew the way to our camps. When the boy could not provide details, he was beaten up.” He continues, “One day the police went to the village and pretending to have lost their way, asked four boys to show them the way out. But they took the boys to the Manpur police station and thrashed them.
They are terrorising innocents. Many villagers are even implicated in false cases. We are struggling for justice as the government has become oppressor.” About another incident, he claims two boys were picked up by the police and taken to Manpur. The villagers sat hoping for the release of the boys. “The forces under instructions from the government lathicharged men, women and children. The time has come to fight with guns,” said Salaam,
“Election is a business for political leaders. But the poor want freedom. This is an armed struggle to liberate people from the oppression of the government.” After the meeting, it was back the same way, returning to the same spot where the man had waited for us. Throughout the journey to Gariaband, it seemed people were judging the strangers in their midst.
Three hardcore Maoists arrested in Bihar
Three hardcore Maoists have been arrested with weapons from a village in Rajepur police station area in Bihar’s East Champaran district, police said today. “Acting on a tip off, a team of Special Armed Police (SAP) raided in Pakhri village last evening and arrested Suresh Sahni alias Sujit, Dhanesh Sah and Rajmangal Ram after they tried to escape by firing on the police,” Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Harimohan Shukla said.
A pistol, six ammunitions and two mobile phones were seized from the arrested Maoists, he said. Sahni, said to be the sub-zonal commander of a Maoist outfit and his associates, were wanted in a dozen cases, in Sheohar, Muzaffarpur and East Champaran districts, including massacre of five people and abduction of a BDO in Sheohar district, Shukla said.