Police question PM rural development fellow, partner on alleged Naxal link
A prime minister’s Rural Development (PMRD) Fellow and his companion from Mumbai, a Congressman who was a former Zila Parishad president and a government medical officer are among ten persons booked for aiding Naxalites in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra in connection with two separate incidents.
Six of the 10 have been arrested, two are being traced and police are questioning PMRD Fellow Mahesh Raut from Brahmapuri in Chandrapur district and his “partner” Harshali Poddar from Virar, Mumbai. Police said they have refrained from arresting Raut and Poddar until there’s “solid ground to act against them”. According to police, two of the arrested men are Naxals — Pramod Pungati and Sunil alias Bandu Hichami of the Gatta dalam. Their questioning made police bring in Raut and Poddar. The Naxals were held from Koinvarshi village in Etapalli tehsil Friday in a special operation based on inputs provided by dalam member Shivaji alias Chaitu Pada, arrested earlier in connection with the murders of Lloyd Steel vice-president Jaspal Singh Dhillon, mining contractor Mallikarjun Reddy and Surjagarh village police patil Raju Sadmek earlier this month.
Raut and Poddar were spotted by police in Koinvarshi but were let off after they identified themselves as “researchers”. They were later intercepted past midnight near Aheri while on a motorcycle. Police said one of the arrested Naxals revealed that Raut and Poddar were with them in Koinvarshi as part of a programme to go into the forest to meet senior Naxal leaders. Poddar and Raut were have been under the police scanner for some time. Last month, Poddar, while accompanying Raut to the Etapalli hearing of Jindal Steel’s proposed iron ore mining project near Surjagarh, was seen protesting against the project, police said.
“Our men spotted the two at Koinvarshi. They said they were from Tata Institute of Social Sciences and were doing some research work. We let them go. The two Naxals, who were collecting funds in the village, later told us that Poddar and Raut were also going to accompany them to the forest where senior Naxal leaders Narmada and Ramko were waiting. So, we intercepted their bike near Aheri and detained them for questioning,” Superintendent of Police Suvez Haq said. “Some CDs of Kabir Kala Manch were found in their possession. They said they like the songs.
Offences were registered against them under sections 13 (penal), 39 (collecting fund for banned organisation) and 40 (ideological support) of Unlawful Assembly (Prevention) Act. We haven’t arrested them since we don’t have solid evidence of any links to Naxals or their activities,” Haq said, adding “they told us they are partners”. Collector Abhishek Krishna said, “Harshali was protesting loudly against the Jindal project at the Etapalli hearing. But it is for the police to find out more about her.” Deputy Inspector General of Police (Gadchiroli range) Ravindra Kadam said, “We have reports about Raut’s links to some Naxal frontpersons in Chandrapur. We are ascertaining the links.”
When his comments were sought, Raut said: “Everything being said is false. It’s a conspiracy.” Harshali’s phone was switched off. In another development, former Gadchiroli ZP president Bandopant Mallelwar and a medical officer were among six persons booked for aiding Naxals when an ambulance of the Porla PHC in West Gadchiroli was found carrying tarpaulin sheets, ten rounds of AK-47, gelatine and medicines. SP Haq said the vehicle had four persons, three of them working for Mallelwar, and the cargo was to be delivered to a Gatta dalam courier in Halewar village.
Cop move to halt ‘red’ advance
Guwahati, June 22: Assam police today initiated steps to set up counter-Maoist cells in at least nine districts into which the red rebels have reportedly made inroads and are busy strengthening their base. The three Upper Assam districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur already have counter-Maoist cells, headed by an additional superintendent of police.
A police source quoted Assam director-general of police J.N. Choudhury as saying that similar cells should be set up in Golaghat, Dhemaji, Sivasagar, Goalpara, Kamrup and Cachar where Maoists were slowly gaining ground. Choudhury was speaking at a two-day meeting with additional directors-general of police and inspectors-general of police that began yesterday. The top officers reviewed police preparedness to counter Maoist activities in the state and other law and order-related subjects during the meeting.
A senior police officer who attended the meeting told The Telegraph that Choudhury asked his officers to prepare their personnel in six other Maoist-hit districts to tackle any law and order problem that the red rebels might create. “Maoists in Assam so far are busy with their political activities but the meeting discussed how to prepare ourselves and make sure that they cannot exploit the situation and create law and order problems in future,” he said. The special anti-Maoist cells, according to the officer, will have facilities to maintain digital records of Maoist members active in the respective districts along with their photographs and exchange these with other police and intelligence officials for quick response.
“The cells will also look after electronic interception of communication between Maoists and monitor their movement. These will also monitor the use of mobile phone SIM cards and take it up with mobile service providers for action whenever necessary,” he said. Sources said the officers also discussed Maoist activities in Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi in the meeting. Maoist presence in these districts had come to light following arrest of two CPI (Maoist) central committee members — Anukul Naskar alias Pareshda from Silchar last month and Aklanta Rabha from Guwahati.
The police have also arrested six Maoist leaders, including three women, from different parts of the state since April 26. The meeting also reviewed police action to check the increase in cases of extortion, a surge of which was reported despite a reduction in militant activities across Assam, with more than 1,500 cases being registered in the state since January 2012. “In many cases, criminals have been found demanding money in the name of a militant group and we are preparing ourselves to tackle the situation,” a source said, adding that cases of vehicle theft were also discussed in the meeting.
Two naxals held in Gadchiroli
Two Naxals were arrested in Etapalli town of Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra when they were collecting money apparently to fund their activities, police said on Saturday. The Naxals, identified as Sunil Yeshu Hichami (27) and Paika Maji Pungati (45), were apprehended yesterday from the market of Etapalli town when they were collecting money.
Both have been booked them under sections 39 and 40 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), they said. Police also apprehended two persons from the village on suspicion of being Maoist sympathisers but later let them off after questioning, Gadchiroli Additional SP Rahul Srirame said.
Explosives seized in Jharkhand, three held
Ranchi, Jun 22 (IANS): A huge cache of explosives was recovered and three people were arrested in Jharkhand Saturday, police said here. According to police, 1,500 detonators, 500 gelatin sticks and wires were seized from a hideout in Gajandi jungle in Koderma district, around 190 km from Ranchi. Police suspect that the explosives were to be supplied to Maoist guerrillas.
Two cops injured in Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh
RAIPUR: An assistant sub-inspector of police and a constable were injured on Sunday in a Naxal attack at Maoist-hit Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh, police said. “Naxals opened indiscriminate firing at a team of district force and Central Reserve Police Force when it was patrolling in the jungles of Dhaudai police station area,” Narayanpur deputy superintendent of police (DSP) NK Sahu told PTI over phone.
The injured were identified as — ASI Shivprasad Chandra and constable Govind Tekam. The security personnel also fired in retaliation but the naxals managed to escape into the thick forest, he said. The injured policemen were admitted to a hospital in Jagdalpur town of Bastar district as they could not be air-lifted to Raipur due to bad whether conditions, he added.
Two Naxalites arrested
CHANDRAPUR: Gadchiroli Police arrested two Naxalites and seized Rs 35,000 from them in Koinvarshi forest area. Police sources claimed that cops had a tip-off about Naxal meeting in Gatta (Jambia) area in Etapalli tehsil and accordingly an anti-Naxal operation was undertaken in the area. Naxalites Sunil Hichami and Paika Pungati were arrested during the operation. Both are members of local operation squad (LOS) of Naxal outfit and were collecting money for Naxal movement, cops claimed.
A man and woman, who claimed as researchers, too were detained by the patrolling party for their suspicious presence. Suspect Mahesh Raut hails from Brahmapuri while the woman – Harshala Potdar – is from Virar in Mumbai. The duo claimed that they are students and are doing research in Gadchiroli under fellowship obtained through Prime Minister Gram Vikas Yojana. Cops are investigating their background and reason behind their presence in Gadchiroli.
Zonal Committee member arrested
Medininagar (Jharkhand), Jun 23: In a prize catch, a CPI (Maoists) Zonal Committee member was arrested along with an accomplice while large quantity of explosives were seized from Undaag village in Naxal-hit Palamu district, a senior police officer said today. 27-year-old Umesh Yadav, who was also the Secretary of North Latehar sub-zonal committee of the outfit, was arrested on Saturday by security personnel when he was asleep with his girlfriend in the village,
Police Superintendent Narendra Kumar Singh said. Addressing a joint press conference along with CRPF Commandant Anil Minz, Singh said Yadav alias Umeshji alias Gorka alias Charka alias Mukeshji had been operating in Ranchi, Palamu, Chatra and Latehar districts of the state and was wanted in 26 cases, including encounter with police, arms loot, landmine blast killing of five persons and extortion. Singh said his involvement in the recent attack on Congress leaders and workers in Chattisgarh was being investigated.
Acting on information, around 200 security personnel each of CRPF and Jharkhand Armed Police and District Armed police conducted raid in the village on Saturday and arrested Yadav and his accomplice Naval Saw while another accomplice Kripal Singh Kherwar managed to escape. A country-made stengun, some live cartridges and a mobile phone was seized from Yadav, Singh said, adding Yadav’s girlfriend was interrogated and later let off. Yadav’s arrest is considered a big catch a month after the arrest of hard-core Pawan Ganju. Ganju’s disclosures during interrogation had led to the arrest of Anand Kherwar from Guwahati recently.
Submit details of contractors working on national highways: NIA
RAIPUR: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is looking into reasons for sudden discontinuation of road construction and widening work on the Tongpal-Darbha stretch, the road that passes through Jhiram Ghati, a month before the Congress leaders were ambushed by Maoists.
The agency has asked National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to furnish a list of all contractors and workers involved in the construction and widening works on National Highways 30 and 63 for scrutiny. According to sources the agency is also looking into possibility of link between the Darbha killings on May 25 and the series of bomb blasts that have rocked major road construction sites on the National Highways (NH) in the months preceding the killings. Sources said the NHAI officials in Bastar has been issued a letter by the NIA and a detailed list is being prepared.
A senior official of NHAI in Bastar division confirmed the NIA’s queries in this regards and said that the list would be made available in the next couple of days. The official also revealed that besides detailed list of names, the agency has also sought the reasons for the discontinuation of work on the Tongpal -Darbha stretch, which stopped within 10 days of it’s start in April. Sources said that Rs 20 crore tender to a Raipur-based firm for the widening of the Tongpal-Darbha stretch was allotted in March and the construction work began on April 15.
However, 10 days later, after completing the widening work on half a kilometer stretch, the contractor stopped work. Being a Naxalite infested area, the contractor had been reportedly demanding security cover and the police was in the process of finalizing the same but he stopped work without assigning any reason. Sources said the half KM stretch that was completed was just 2 kms from Jhiram Ghati where the Maoists attacked the Congress convoy.
“We want to question the contractor to find out if he was coerced to stop work” , said an investigating agency official adding that there could be such possibilities as continuation of work could have spoiled the Maoists plans. He said if the work had continued, police force would have been deployed, making it difficult for the Maoists to lay mines on the roads and avoid detection. The official said the contractor had demanded security but had not given specific reason for the same.
44 improvised explosive devices defused in Jharkhand
Ranchi: An attempt by Maoist guerrillas to detonate a series of landmine blasts was foiled in Jharkhand on Sunday by police and CRPF personnel, who recovered 44 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and defused them. The IEDs were found in Purnapani village at Jhumra hill of Bokaro district, 145 km from state capital Ranchi. They were planted in a series in a radius of 150 metres and were meant to target vehicles of security forces, police said.
Cellphones and SIM cards recovered from jail
Begusarai, Jun 23 (PTI) Begusarai district administration seized nine cellphones and 14 SIM cards from the divisional prison today, official sources said. Acting on a tip off, District Magistrate Manoj Kumar and Superintendent of Police Harpreet Kaur conducted a joint raid in Begusarai divisional prison and seized cellphones and SIM cards from different wards. Rs. 11,000 cash and Maoist literature were also seized, they said.