Naxals kill three police commandoes in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli
Pune: Banned CPI-M Maoists triggered a landmine blast in a forest area on the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border in the wee hours on Thursday, killing at least three police commandoes. According to the Gadchiroli District Collector, the anti-Naxal commando force jawans were conducting a combing operation in the Bada Zariya forest area in Dhanora taluka following a tip-off when the Naxals triggered a landmine blast. The jawans, who were killed, belonged to the C-60 Commando Force. There was also a heavy exchange of fire after the blast, locals said. Senior police officials were rushed to the spot and the bodies are being brought to Gadchiroli, police said. This is a major attack by Maoists in the last few months after police eliminated more than 23 ultras in different operations this year. The attack could be part of a larger ambush plan of Naxals to target the government machinery, sources said.
Naxals asking leaders for more arms as forces dominate hinterland
NAGPUR/RAJNANDGAON: Just like senior police officials write to the home ministry, even Naxal leaders are required to contact higher-ups to seek more sophisticated weapons. Arrested rebels have revealed that such demands have gone up in recent times, as more paramilitary forces are deployed in the jungles. The Naxals need weapons to ‘ambush’ police patrol teams, which allows them to not only inflict casualties but also steal weapons.
Interrogation of a recently arrested Naxal, a deputy commander, has revealed that rebel leaders are desperately seeking reinforcement of arms and ammunitions from their top leaders. They are claiming increasing pressure in the wake of penetration of security forces in the hinterland. The interrogators learnt that Milind Teltumbde, secretary of Maharashtra State Rajya Committee of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), too had sent a proposal to the central committee based at Abujmadh in Dandakaranya, the heart of forested Central India. He requested sophisticated arms and other gadgets to take on the security forces.
The Naxals, particularly in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, have received some setbacks against police forces recently. The arrested leader claims Teltumbde sent an elaborate proposal, demanding two-inch mortar and launcher, light machine guns (LMG), rocket launchers and ammunition. He also wanted day and night vision goggles and binoculars to spot movement of forces in the jungles. Tarpaulins, explosives and detonators too have been sought in large numbers. The police now believe the dalams are leaving ‘dumps’ in the jungles where they hide arms, weapons, ammunitions and other valuables, including cash or party funds. This ensures all the weapons and party funds are not seized in case of an encounter, if the guerrillas need to retreat. A senior official engaged in Naxal operations said both Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh police have managed to unearth some such dumps.
A senior official of Rajnandgaon police in Chhattisgarh said Naxal literature seized over the last few months shows they have serious concerns about increased movement of paramilitary forces in the jungles, which increases possibility of confrontation. It’s also learnt that the Naxals, while procuring arms and ammunition from foreign allies through porous borders, also have several arms factories in the Dandakaranya region. They manufacture two types of firearms – Bharmar guns and double barrel rifles – for their cadres.
Another major source of weapons is looting cops after inflicting casualties in encounters. “The leaders operate with AK-47, AKMs and LMGs. The lower order mainly depend upon locally made stenguns, .303, Bharmars and double barrels,” said a senior official. “The Naxals are very cautious about firearms. Due to low supply, they can neither afford to lose them or waste ammunition. Just like police, the Naxals too are accountable for every bullet fired or weapon used. The party takes action in case they find irregularities,” he said.
Naxals have team to repair firearms A recently arrested senior Naxal has revealed that the rebels have a dedicated ‘technical team’, comprising a couple and an assistant, who are entrusted with the responsibility of repairing defective firearms. The team, learnt to have been trained at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, visits dalams, platoons and companies to repair the firearms that are out of order.
Not tortured as badly as I was last time: Prashant Rahi
NAGPUR: Two years ago, at a sparsely-furnished flat in suburban Mumbai, Prashant Rahi, a soft-spoken social activist with a quiet demeanour, told TOI that he had been subjected to third-degree torture in Uttarakhand, where he had been jailed for allegedly being a Naxalite. Rahi had said that he was stripped, beaten mercilessly “in parts of the body where the pain is unbearable” and had petrol inserted into his anus. TOI met him once again at the high-security Nagpur Central Jail, where he has spent over a month after his re-arrest on charges of Naxalism on September 1. “This time, I was not tortured badly like the last time,” said Rahi. He said he was “only badly beaten twice,” including one occasion where he refused to allow police to check his emails.
“The fact that Prashant Rahi should make a comparison between levels of torture, and talk of the difference between being tortured badly and not-so-badly speaks volumes of the extent of human rights violation that takes place in custody. Beating is equivalent to torture,” said Shashikumar Velath, programmes director, Amnesty International India, which has run a campaign to prevent Rahi from being tortured. “Nobody in detention should be tortured, regardless of what they are suspected of. This isn’t the first time Rahi has said he was tortured in custody and, unless those responsible are held accountable, it is unlikely to be the last. Unfortunately many police officials in India still believe torture is acceptable and that they are above the law,” Velath said.
While Rahi has been arrested on grounds of being a Naxal courier, he rubbished the claim. Since his release from Uttarakhand (he was first arrested in 2007 and released on bail in 2011), he has worked on cases of other political prisoners in India, like himself. “Many of the cases I fought were successful. I have fought for some very old people who were in jail, including some who were incapacitated and on their death-bed,” Rahi said. Rahi’s lawyers, Surendra Gadling and Jagdish Meshram, believe his human rights activism on behalf of political prisoners marked him as an obvious target for arrest.
While the police have said they caught Rahi in Gondia district of Maharashtra, Rahi said he was in Raipur ( Chhattisgarh) when he was picked off the streets, pushed into a car and taken on a 12-hour journey to Gondia. “There were only two hearings left in the Uttarakhand case against Prashant. We were expecting the case to finish soon. His re-arrest looks like a ploy to prevent him from being free. It is obvious he is being targeted for his work on political prisoners,” Rahi’s wife Chandrakala said over phone from Uttarakhand. She said his train ticket to Raipur was confiscated by the police at the time of arrest.
Incidentally, Rahi had told TOI two years ago that he had been picked up by Uttarakhand police in a similar manner. He said he was picked off the streets of Dehradun and stuffed into a car, whereas the official story is that he was picked up from the forests of Udham Singh Nagar. “The police say JNU student Hem Mishra, also arrested on charges of Naxalism, had mentioned Rahi’s name in connection with Naxal activities. This is not true. Hem was tortured in police custody. He has never mentioned Rahi,” said Meshram, lawyer for both Mishra and Rahi. Rahi is one among a whole host of social activists arrested on charges of Naxalism. Cases against some others, such as Binayak Sen and Arun Ferreira, have collapsed in court.
Top ranking Maoist arrested
A self-styled zonal commander of a Maoist outfit, involved in the recent attack on a SAP camp in Aurangabad in which three jawans were killed and arms and ammunition looted, was arrested from Kolkata and forwarded to jail. On a tip off, the police arrested Nepali Yadav from Kolkata and brought him here, Additional Superintendent of Police Shambhu Prasad said. Yadav, who is self-styled zonal commander of the Magadh and central zones in Bihar, was produced in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate here who remanded him to 14 days judicial custody.
Yadav had a key role in the recent attack on a SAP (Special Auxiliary Police) camp at Goh in which three jawans were killed and huge quantity of arms and ammunition looted by the Maoists. The Kolkata police, however, remained in the dark about the entire operation and said that they had no idea about the Gaya police team’s operation in the city. “We are not aware of any such operation in the city,” said a senior official of Special Task Force said in Kolkata.
Drones may be used in Maoist-hit Jangalmahal
The state police may soon deploy drones to maintain heightened vigil in Jangalmahal, the crucial decision depending upon the “experience” of the Kolkata Police which used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to patrol the city skies during the recently concluded Durga Puja. “The purchase of UAVs will depend on the report of the Kolkata Police since they have started using it since Durga Puja,” Barun Mullick, special inspector-general, (modernisation), told Hindustan Times. The UAVs, commonly known as drones, are aircraft without any human pilot on board. They are used for military and special operation purposes all over the world for round-the-clock vigil.
The need to purchase UAVs has been raised time and again by many senior officers working in the Maoist-hit Jangalmahal areas. In the recent past, during a meeting where officers from Jangalmahal were present, all of them supported the idea and it was decided that the final decision will be taken on the basis of the Kolkata Police’s report. If early experience of the Kolkata Police is any indication, drones will soon man the skies of Jangalmahal.
On Tuesday, Kolkata police commissioner Surojit Kar Purokayastha said the department has got satisfactory results from the UAV that was pressed into service from panchami (October 9). “Henceforth, we will use it in all law-and-order situations across the city. We are satisfied with the UAV experience,” Purokayastha said. In 2010, during the tenure of Bhupinder Singh as director-general of state police, a functional testing of UAV was carried out by the state police but it was found to be unsatisfactory.
“The resolution of the cameras was not so satisfactory. We tested it in Alipore area. The picture was not so clear and after watching it, the DG turned down the proposal. At that time, we had an urgent need to purchase UAVs. We asked the agency that came to sell it, to increase the resolution of the camera,” said an officer of the state intelligence branch (IB). The IB officer said if UAVs are purchased, a separate system will be formed for the project so that after receiving photos from the drones, it can be directly sent to the state IB. Since Jangalmahal is forested and it’s difficult to man the terrain for security personnel, UAVs are a viable option to keep constant surveillance.
Security measures beefed up in Manipur
Security measures have been beefed up in Manipur along the 396 km long border with Myanmar following attacks on Assam Rifles personnel. The latest attack took place on Monday in Ukhrul district. There was no casualty among the personnel. In the recent past, several Assam Rifles personnel and villagers were killed and wounded in such attacks activated by remote controlled devices. Assam Rifles personnel who are well trained in counter insurgency operations had replaced the Border Security Force personnel along Manipur Myanmar border. It is a fact that militant groups of the North Eastern states have their training camps and administrative offices in some parts of Western Myanmar and no man’s land.
Since most portions of the porous border are unmanned the militants can and do sneak into Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh to create law and order problems and then rush back to their camps beyond the reach of the Indian security forces. One of the reasons the government is constructing the insurmountable border fence at Moreh, the border town of Manipur is check unfettered movement of the militants. It is established that the militants and their recruits including child soldiers cross the town where there is legalised border trade by masquerading as common traders and tourists. Although there is a hue and cry against the construction of the fence deep inside Manipur the Border Roads Organisation is continuing the works. The Union government has refused to redeploy the BSF personnel along the border.
For a long time the Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh has been demanding the redeployment of BSF. The Union government leaders perhaps feel that since the Assam Rifles personnel are better trained in counter insurgency operations they should remain to man the sensitive border. For years most of the major outfits in Manipur had opened their general headquarters at Sajik Tampak in Chandel district. The militants who are ensconced in the strategically located camp could see approaching personnel. In one such instance, one BSF officer and two personnel were killed when an attack was launched by the BSF at Sajik Tampak.
Eventually, a major offensive was launched and the militants fled to the no man’s land through the international border. An army headquarters was opened there later. Apart from intensifying patrols along the border the Assam Rifles personnel are checking all vehicles along highway 2. There have been reprts of arresting insurgents and recovering guns and explosives from the vehicles. Big movements of the armed mlitants are suspected in the mountains in these border districts. As a result there had been some ambushes here and there against the security personnel. Sources said that as a result of the beefed up security measures movements of the militants have been curtailed considerably.