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While Andhra talks to Naxalites, other states pay the price

While Andhra talks to Naxalites, other states pay the price

Author: Rakesh Sinha
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: October 23, 2004
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=57516

PWG: Attacks up in Maharashtra, cops borrow anti-mines vehicle

Away from the spotlight on the Andhra-Naxal talks and the merger of People's War and Maoist Communist Centre, Andhra police officials who led the crackdown have been quietly shunted out. And neighbouring Maharashtra, reeling under a wave of Naxal attacks from the time the Hyderabad talks were announced, has borrowed an anti-mines vehicle from the police in Warangal who have no use for it now.

In Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal too, Left wing extremism is on the up with police stations and patrols increasingly coming under attack.

West Bengal and Tamil Nadu have ruled out talks with the Naxals but in Chhattisgarh, where the People's War holds considerable sway, the opposite has happened: the Naxals have rejected a state offer for talks, insisting that all police operations be halted, as in Andhra, to demonstrate ''sincerity.'' They have called a statewide bandh on November 1, Chhattisgarh's founding day.

In Gadchiroli, a slice of Maharashtra which cadres of the People's War and Janashakthi use as a passage to move from Andhra Pradesh to Chhattisgarh, the police have borrowed an anti-mines vehicle from their counterparts in Warangal district. The vehicle, one of the few protective shields that the police have against Naxals who trigger landmines routinely to ambush patrols, will primarily be used by road opening parties (ROPs).

Confirming their new acquisition, Gadchiroli SP Shirish Jain  told The Indian Express over telephone that ''we have borrowed the vehicle from the Warangal police but we hope to have two of our own very soon, which I am told have been sanctioned.''

Around the time the YSR government was hosting the Naxal leadership in Hyderabad, their cadres were launching a wave of attacks across the border to disrupt Maharashtra's Assembly polls. Jain himself had a close call when rocket-propelled grenades were fired at a helicopter he and his men were using to escort poll staff.

''Yes, there has been a sharp rise in their activities. From October 9 to 14, we had as many 16 incidents of mines being triggered and the police fired at. We have recovered five landmines, 50-60 kg of gelatin. We lost a CRPF jawan and another was badly injured when an ROP came under attack on October 15,'' said Jain.

The attacks are not just confined to the Maharashtra-Andhra border. A police station on Gadchiroli's borders with Chhattisgarh has also come under attack. It's in Chhattisgarh that the Naxal cadres are firmly entrenched, so sure about their strength that they are letting everyone know it will soon be called the liberated zone of Dandakaranya.

Andhra's decision to suspend all anti-Naxal operations has been followed by a police reshuffle, which has seen some key officers who led the crackdown being shunted out. In a state which alone accounts for 5,000 of the 9,000 killed in a decade of Left wing violence across the country, officials are still smarting from ''the humiliation of being dumped'' and told to ensure that the Naxal leadership enjoy safe passage in and out of their hideouts in the Nallamala forests spread over the districts of Kurnool, Guntoor, Prakasam, Mahabubnagar and Nalgonda.

An Andhra official summed it up when he said: ''When the chief of the Greyhounds (the anti-Naxal force) was made head of the state police academy, we knew we had to go easy. It doesn't matter now what we did all these years.'' But a break for the Andhra police means work, more work for their counterparts elsewhere.

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