Maoists expand footprint to Jungle Mahal in WB eye Assam

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Guwahati/Agartala, April 10

The CPI (Maoist) according to intelligence and many other credible reports desperately trying to revive their base in West Bengals "Jungle Mahal" and expand their footprint in northeastern states, especially in Assam.

After a long gap, a "successful" shutdown, called by the Maoist, was observed in large parts of West Bengal's Jungle Mahal on Friday when normal life was affected in Jhargram, West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura districts which make up the region.

The shutdown was observed to protest the Bengal government's move to appoint former Maoists cadres as junior constables or special homeguards. The CPI (Maoist) accused their former cadres as "criminals" and also threatened that those not observing the strike would be killed.

West Bengal has 127 km inter-state borders with Assam, where Maoist rebels are desperately trying to set up bases as their traditional areas of influence in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha besides West Bengal are shrinking due to intensified crackdown by the security forces.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) last month arrested top Maoist leader Arun Kumar Bhattacharjee a.k.a. Kanchan Da, a member of the central committee of CPI (Maoist) along with his associate Akash Orang alias Kajal, a member of Assam state organising committee of the outfit.

The Maoist leaders were arrested from Patimara Tea Garden under Udarband police station of Cachar district in southern Assam.

On the basis of the inputs shared by Kanchan Da, the Crime Branch of the Assam Police arrested Maoist cadre Hriday Kalita from Kamrup district and the NIA nabbed woman Maoist activist Reema Orang a.k.a. Saraswati, who has been on the run for a long time, from Dibrugarh.

The intelligence officials after questioning Kanchan Da have learnt that there are Maoist "sleeper cells" active in Assam.

The officials of the NIA and Assam police's Crime Branch have been continued their searches in different districts of Assam to nab the fleeing Maoist cadres.

The NIA teams also interrogated suspected Maoist cadres in southern, eastern and western Assam.

Senior police and intelligence officials said that there are reports that with the taming of the militancy, the Maoists are trying to increase their activities in the northeastern states by engaging the militants and surrendered extremists.

"The Maoist rebels have yet to start any armed revolution in Assam and other northeastern states. They might be trying to expand their support base first and engage young cadres. However, the situation in Assam and other northeastern states are not so conducive to extend their area of influence," a top Assam Police officer told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

However, the official said that some Assam youths were given training in Jharkhand camps.

The CPI (Maoist) is a banned organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who also holds the Home portfolio, last week indicated about the resurgence of a "third wave" of Maoists' threat in the state which had prompted operations against them by the Central and state security agencies.

Security and defence experts and political commentators opined that to utilise the positive atmosphere of the northeastern region after the taming of the militancy to a large extent, the security agencies must foil the Maoist bid of any attempt to expand their base in the region nipped in the bud.

Renowned security analyst Manas Paul said that the Maoists had always had some presence in the northeast, if not operationally, but strategically and ideologically.

However, this time their Eastward move, as evidenced by some recent arrests and interrogations and intelligence inputs, assumed significance for the fact that this time it seemed more definite, purposeful and based on long term plans, he told IANS.

Paul, who authored the well read book on the security and terrorism "The Eyewitness", said that while in other states in the country tribal population which forms the base of the Maoists movement are traditionally and seriously deprived of economic, political, social, educational anddevelopments, but in northeast India, the indigenous populations are by and large enjoying best of life with economic and political power as well as in social standard.

"While several northeastern states are directly ruled by the tribal leaders, the Constitution's 6th schedule and other safeguard formula gave them far more protections from extraneous exploitations-politically, economically or otherwise."

Paul said that considering these, it is likely that the Maoists would find it difficult to sway the common villagers or middle-class indigenous people the way they could in the remote parts of Andhra Pradesh or Bihar or Jharkhand or Odisha or Bengal.

"In that case they are very likely to rely on their old links and activate the old comrade-in-arms –the northeast militants.This will be a deadly development, indeed."

He said that several militant organisations of the region, NSCN-IM, ULFA (I), PLA and KLO, were once directly linked with the Maoists.

"The relation had begun with the Chinese when NSCN or PLA were directly helped and trained by the Chinese in their territory (Yunan and Lhasa) in the 1960s. The relation continued very strongly till 1990s.The Nepalese Maoists always maintained close links with the Indian Maoists and also had strategic chicken neck, especially Jalpaiguri areas in mind for their movements," Paul pointed out.

In 2010, the then Home secretary G.K. Pillai admitted that the Indian Maoists also had direct links with the NSCN, ULFA and PLA and the northeastern terror outfits helped the Maoists in arms smuggling from Bangladesh and Myanmar.
 

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