Maoist attack in India ignites fears of renewed violence
NEW DELHI: Seven people, including a local politician and her politically-active husband, have been killed in an explosion in India’s eastern province of Bihar. The attack has prompted concerns of renewed violence in the province. They were killed by a cane bomb, the trademark weapon of Maoist rebels. Patna Additional Director General of Police Ravinder Kumar said: “The way it looks right now, since it was a landmine blast, there is a possibility that it was a targeted attack.”
One of the dead, Sushil Pandey, allegedly had ties to a militia known as the Ranvir Sena. Barely a week ago, the Patna High Court acquitted 26 people from the group of the 1997 killing of 58 Dalits, a marginalized community in Indian society. It is one of the worst cases of caste-based violence in Bihar that year. Some are worried that a “gang war” between the group and the Maoists, suspected of carrying out Thursday’s attack, will resume after a five-year lull. Opposition politicians in Bihar laid the blame for the worsening law and order situation squarely on the provincial government.
Patna : As many as 57 people were booked in Bihar’s Aurangabad district Friday, a day after seven people were killed in a massive landmine blast triggered by Maoists. There was tension in the area and the first information report (FIR) was lodged against seven people who were named and 50 “unknown” people, police officials said. Combing operations have been intensified against Maoists in Aurangabad, which is considered their stronghold, officials said.
“Search operations against Maoists were intensified Friday,” Additional Director General of Police Ravinder Kumar said. He said district police have lodged an FIR and top police officials have been camping in Aurangabad. “There is tension in the village but it is under control,” he said. The blast took place near Pisai village Thursday evening within Obra police station jurisdiction in Aurangabad, about 120 km from here. Sushil Pandey, husband of a district council member, was among those killed in the land mine blast, police said.
According to a district police official, Pandey, a former commander of Ranvir Sena, an outlawed private army of landed upper castes, was on the hit list of Maoists and they had threatened to kill him after he was released from jail recently. The state government transferred Aurangabad Superintendent of Police Daljeet Singh, who has been replaced by Upendra Kumar Sharma. The government also announced an ex-gratia of Rs.5 lakh for the next of kin of each of the dead. Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) targeted Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for the incident and demanded strict action against Maoists. Senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi during his visit to the village, where he met families of the victims, blamed Nitish Kumar for the killing of seven people.
Another BJP leader admitted that those killed in the landmine blast were from upper castes, the support base of the party in Bihar. “BJP has to raise the killings of upper castes by Maoists to send a strong political massage to protect them,” the BJP leader said. However, ruling Janata Dal (United) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said there was no justification for the BJP’s blame game politics. “None other than chief minister directed that the combing operations be intensified in the district to flush out Maoists. There is no question that state government will allow some vested interest to create social tension in the state,” Neeraj Kumar said.
Not only me but thousands booked under Sedition law: Binayak Sen
Ahmedabad: Activist Binayak Sen, who is out on bail in a sedition case, on Friday indicated that the draconian law is being misused and thousands of people have already become victims of the legislation.
“I am not the only one who has been charged under this law. Today, in every state of the country thousands of people have been charged under the Sedition law and many are facing jail term,” Sen said in his convocation address at the Gujarat Vidyapeeth, which was established by Mahatma Gandhi here. “Three thousand people silently protesting against Kudankulam nuclear plant have been booked under the Sedition law,” he added. “Chattisgarh court sentenced me to life imprisonment on Sedition charges. I am standing before you today as the Supreme Court has given me bail,” Sen pointed out.
Naxal mines planted in zilla parishad school blows up 3 jawans
GADCHIROLI: Violence returned to Naxal-affected Gadchiroli district after a brief lull, claiming lives of three jawans from the special action group (SAG) following a blast at a zilla parishad school at Motazelia hamlet in Korchi taluka on Wednesday night. The blast triggered by the Naxalites at 11pm on Wednesday ripped open the floor of the two classrooms of the school where the jawans were resting after dinner. It is learnt that a party of the SAG jawans, divided into two groups, had left Gadchiroli HQ on Tuesday to conduct operations.
A group of 60 came to Motazelia, located around 85 kms from Gadchiroli town, 4kms off the main road and in the middle of a thick forest. There are around 26 houses with 150 residents in Motazelia. In an unrelated incident and separated by around nine hours, the body of a Naxal was recovered following an encounter at Jarawandi in Etapalli taluka on Thursday morning. The Naxal cadre is still to be unidentified. Police have recovered a 8mm rifle and some Naxal literature.
The primary school at Motazelia was constructed in 1992 and some in the police believe that the mines could have been planted then itself. But others told TOI that it could have been in the recent past as the security forces had begun using the school for halting and resting. This was confirmed by the villagers too. The police told TOI that the Naxals had been asking the villagers not to encourage the police squads to use the school and gram panchayat buildings. The security forces escaped a bigger casualty only because the two rooms were small and could accommodate about six adults in each. The rest of the police party was outside the school compound. Another policeman told TOI that the cement floor and the age of the mines could have prevented a bigger blast from happening.
Angered by the blast, the police hit out against the people of Motazelia leaving innocent tribals as young as 12 years and as old as 80 injured. Several men and women showed reddened backs or swollen limbs caused by the merciless beating. Samari Pulsingh Puro, a villager, added another violent side of the government machineries after she was turned away by the primary health centre staffers who denied medicines and treatment. “Not a single villager could get treatment after the police thrashed us. Some of the villagers cannot even lift themselves from the bed,” she told TOI. The PHC is located at Gyarapatti village, 4-5 kms from Motazelia. DIG (Naxal range) Ravindra Kadam denied the allegations of police atrocity. The police intelligence machinery was reduced to a mockery when a bunch of SAG jawans, which is part of the state Anti-Naxal Operation (ANO) cell, became sitting ducks for the Naxalites. The group, out on patrolling duty, had been stationed at the school from 11am on Wednesday.
Around 11pm, the school was rattled with a blast shortly after the SAG jawans had retired for the day. The blast left almost five-foot deep craters in the two classrooms exactly below the blackboards where the mines would have been planted earlier. Parts of the walls and roofs too caved in. The deceased SAG jawans were identified as Ravikumar Suramwar (25), Satyavan Kasanwar (27) and Ishant Bhure (24). While Suramwar and Kasamwar hailed from Gadchiroli, Bhure belonged to Bhandara. Suramwar and Kasamwar had joined SAG exactly a year ago while Bhure had come to the ANO’s combat wing in April this year.
Three more jawans had received some injuries but are out of danger. After the blast, villagers stated that the jawans waited for reinforcement from Gyarapatti armed outpost before venturing out from the school. “The jawans had fired a few rounds but did not leave the school premises presuming that there could be more surprises in store for them,” said a villager. It was learnt that police continuously rained lathis on the tribals between 4am and 10am. 80-year-old Soma Kumutti said that police did not spare him even though he cannot move around without using a walking stick. “Accusing us of helping the Naxalites, they thrashed everyone,” he said.
The police also thrashed Mukund Ramteke, a contractor, who was supervising the work at the construction site of the local gram panchayat building. The police later used Ramteke’s vehicle to shift the injured and dead jawans. Nandu Vairagade, secretary of the sarpanch association of Korchi, said that district collector should visit the village. “There is no way that an injured human being can be deprived of medical attention. This is a gross violation of any rights,” said Vairagade who too visited the villagers. While the villagers of Motazelia were left an aggrieved lot, the students who were supposed to return to school after three days of holiday now have no idea when they can resume their studies.
Naxals plant IEDs near polling booths in Chhattisgarh: Police
With Assembly elections nearing in Chhattisgarh, police have received inputs of Naxals planting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) near polling booths in the Maoist-hotbed of Bastar division in a bid to disrupt the electoral process. Security forces are regularly conducting operations to detect landmines in southern Chhattigsarh following inputs that the rebels have planted IEDs in polling booths premises located in hyper-sensitive parts of Narayanpur and Kondagaon districts, police sources said. The inputs have also tipped off police about the Reds planting IEDs on routes connecting the polling centres, to cause maximum damage to polling parties and security forces who will be deployed for conducting elections.
As many as 18 Naxal-affected constituencies of eight districts of south Chhattisgarh will go to polls next month. “The strategy of planting explosives near polling stations was used in previous elections to deter government officials and security forces from conducting polling. This time again they are reportedly doing the same,” an Intelligence Bureau official told PTI on condition of anonymity. As per the information, the vulnerable areas where the ultras seem to be increasing their technique of planting IEDs include polling centres under Kokrajhar, Benoor, Dhaudai, Orchha, and Idka of Narayanpur district and Bayanar, Mardapal and Bade Dongar area of Kondagaon district, he said.
However, he did not rule out the possibility of Naxals going with same strategy in their strongholds in other districts of the region. Naxals find it easy to plant landmines after rainy season as it is convenient to dig tunnels on either side of a wet road to reach the top from below to plant the IED, the official said. Since elections are scheduled after rains, the extremists may take advantage of the situation and try to carry out blasts through IEDs, the official said. Eighteen Naxal-affected constituencies of eight districts — Bastar, Bijapur, Kondagaon, Sukma, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Kanker and Rajnandgaon — will go to polls in the first phase on November 11. Taking a serious view of the Maoists threat, the Centre has sent additional 400 companies (40,000 personnel) of paramilitary forces to ensure peaceful polling.
Around 65,000 police personnel and 27,000 paramilitary troopers are already engaged in anti-Naxal operations in the state. Notably, the state government has recommended to the Election Commission to relocate over 250 polling booths in hyper-sensitive areas of the Naxal-infested region of south Chhattisgarh following the threat by Maoists. “The talks are on at high level to go ahead with the proposal. Even in past polling booths were relocated during both Assembly and Lok Sabha polls,” a state government official here said. Like they did in the past, Naxals have again put up posters and banners in Bastar urging people not to cast their vote and boycott polls.
Maoists cite SC NOTA ruling to justify poll boycott
To justify their poll boycott call, the Maoists have cited the recent Supreme Court ruling on giving the electorate the option of not voting for any of the candidates in the fray by pressing the “none of the above” button.
In a set interview — sent in a Q & A format — emailed to Hindustan Times, Ramanna, secretary to the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, denounced the election system and stated that even the Supreme Court had to intervene to give the voters the alternative of ‘none of the above’, which he said was “negative voting”. “This means that the judiciary, which also is part of the present system, has admitted that the interests of the people in the present election process is consistently on the decline. So, we believe that boycotting polls is also a justified people’s right,” the Maoist leader said. The rebels said if the government adopted repressive measures to make the poll boycott campaign unsuccessful, it would “certainly be opposed”, thereby keeping open the possibility of a counter-offensive during the upcoming elections.