Debating India
Home page > Public directory > Indian Politics > Political Parties & Elections > Regional Elections > Phase I: Three districts and fear of lurking Maoist guns


Phase I: Three districts and fear of lurking Maoist guns

Sunday 16 April 2006, by NAGCHOUDHURY*Subrata

Belpahari (West Midnapore), April 15 : In the interiors of Belpahari in West Midnapore or Bandowan in Purulia the landscape of green forests and olive groves is deceptive. Hidden behind the serene setting are paramilitary forces donning camouflage outfits, ready to thwart any Maoist attack.

The silence of the villages is often shattered by marching boots of the security personnel, their fingers firmly planted on the trigger. They march past in single file as villagers peep out of their thatched huts, anxiety and fear writ large on their faces.

The first phase of polling in the state will cover 45 seats spread across West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. The geographical block, significantly, represents an area which has witnessed sporadic violence and a targeted bloodshed by Maoists activists. As many as 35 Marxist leaders in this region have been murdered along with 20 security personnel, including officer in charge of police stations and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, since the last Assembly polls in 2001.

The killings have followed a systematic pattern - booby traps, indigenous explosive devices or simple hit and run guerrilla tactics. It has spread terror far and wide into the interiors of Bandowan, Belpahari, Banspahari, Ranibandh or Khatra where the first phase of polls is going to be held.

For instance, the Belpahari SC High School has been converted into an operational base of the Border Security Force 200 BN. The CO refuses to identify himself; there is more evidence of the seriousness with which they are operating.

A satellite imagery contour map of the region - titled “ LWE Operation Area MAP” hangs on one of the walls. The CO explains “LWE” stands for Left Wing Extremists, but won’t elaborate on what the brief is for the polls. The map is dotted with red, yellow, blue dots each signifying the Maoist attacks with dates and casualty figures. The “shelters” both within Bengal and in Jharkhand are marked too.

All schools in the region have been taken over by the forces. In some places, camps have been set up in the open.

According to official sources, each block has 10 companies (Coys) of Border Security Force, two Coys of CRPF, three Coys of the Indian Reserve Battalion, five Coys of the State Armed Police, two Coys of the Rapid Action Force and Eastern Frontier Rifles.

For a change, the local CPI(M) leaders are not complaining about the “invasion” of such a huge number of security forces - a new feature of the polls in this region. For all her clamour of a poll under the glare of paramilitary forces, the Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee should know it is the CPI(M) which stands to gain.

Anil Mahato, a local committee member of the CPI(M) at Silda, who survived an armed attack by Maoists sometime back, explains: ??We are not going to disturb the security forces as long as they are performing their duty. In the plains of the region our cadres can manage on their own, ensuring a good poll. But it is in the hills that the security forces can prevent false voting, threats and intimidation by the combined forces of Maoists, Congress and the Trinamool Congress.’’

See online : The Indian Express

SPIP | template | | Site Map | Follow-up of the site's activity RSS 2.0