Soren Govt Calls Off Anti-Naxal Operations In Jharkhand
At a time when states are teaming up to crack down on Naxalites, the Shibu Soren-led government in Jharkhand, one of the states worst affected by Naxal violence, has quietly halted operations, including long range patrols and raids directed at the extremists, says a report in The Indian Express.
And in one of the first fallouts, eight policemen were killed in a landmine blast triggered by Naxals in Gumla last Friday.
Central paramilitary forces, including 28 CRPF companies, are being made to wait by the state government while the Special Task Force, comprising personnel of the Jharkhand Armed Police who have been trained in jungle warfare and anti-landmine techniques, are back in the barracks. The securitymen were deployed in the districts of Ranchi, Palamau, Lohardaga and Gumla.
Long range patrols and search operations, routine until President's Rule was lifted in Jharkhand, have been stopped. Officials fear this will allow the Naxalites to rest and recoup. There have even been reports that the Naxal leadership in West Bengal, including its spokesperson Kishenji, had left their hideouts in Lalgarh for the forests of Jharkhand.
The Soren government's move to put the brakes on anti-Naxal operations, within days of taking charge of the state, has set off alarm bells in the security establishment. An Intelligence official told The Indian Express that “Jharkhand is set to become a safe haven” for Naxalites who are beginning to feel the heat in the other states that make up the Red Corridor.
On January 12, cadres of the People's Liberation Front of India, a breakaway faction of the CPI (Maoist), looted people in 12 buses near Piparwar. On January 14, five trucks, engaged in transportation of bauxite ores from the Bagru mines in Lohardaga district, were set ablaze by cadres of the Tritiya Prastuti Committee, another breakaway faction of the CPI (Maoist). On January 15, eight policemen, including ASI Shyam Kishore Singh, were killed when Naxalites targeted them with a landmine in Gumla district.
Asked whether the new spurt in Naxal violence indicated that the police were unable to take them on, DGP Neyaz Ahmad declined comment. “I prefer not to talk about it,” he said.
The Jharkhand Policemen's Association (JPA) has been fuming — an estimated 350 police personnel have been killed in Naxal violence since January 2001. “We have had enough. If the government is not ready to fight the Naxals, we will chalk out our own strategy to deal with them,” said JPA secretary Subhash Yadav.
Incidentally, Soren fielded three former Naxalites as JMM candidates in the Assembly elections and one of them, Poulus Surin, won from Torpa. So immediately after taking oath on December 30, Soren declared: “We are ready to hold talks. Gun for gun will not end terror and violence.”
JMM partner BJP appears divided over the decision to halt operations. While Deputy Chief Minister Raghuvar Das has backed Soren, senior BJP leader and former MLA Saryu Rai has slammed the move.
“Nowhere in the country have talks with the Naxals made any headway. Moreover, since our party's government in Chhattisgarh is pursuing (Union Home Minister) Chidambaram's action plan, the BJP central leadership should clarify the party stand. If it does not, this will lead to friction within the coalition and the government in Jharkhand,” Rai said.