Operation Green Hunt Fizzling Out in West Bengal and Jharkhand
Posted by Ka Frank on February 24, 2010
This article appeared in India Today on February 22, 2010.
Operation Green Hunt fizzles out in Red zone
Operation Green Hunt, the joint anti-Maoist action, has failed to make a dent in the contiguous Maoist strongholds of East Singhbhum in Jharkhand and the Jangalmahal area of West Bengal. The Maoist cadres are having a free run in both the states, launching repeated attacks from the densely forested hilly region in the bordering areas.
In the past 15 days, the Maoists have killed scores of policemen in both the states. The massacre at Shilda camp of the Eastern Frontier Rifles, in which 24 jawans were killed, was the biggest ever attack carried out by the Maoists in the region.
In Jharkhand, they kidnapped a block development officer, who was released on Friday after the state government gave in to their demand and set free two jailed Maoist activists.
The Maoists have turned the East Singhbhum district into an impregnable fort using the cover of the Chakulia, Ghatshila and Dalma forests to carry out the attacks. The Shilda camp attack was planned and launched from here. “The densely forested ranges of hills on the Jharkhand-West Bengal border at Chakulia, Bahragora, Ghatshila and Dalma forests are the Maoists’ safest hideouts,” Jharkhand director general of police (DGP) Neyaz Ahmad said.
Chief minister Shibu Soren’s remarks that the Maoist issue would be sorted out by talks seems to have only resulted in more aggressive attacks by the extremists. Soren said on Sunday that his government would not launch a major offensive against the rebels, provided they keep away from violence. “Our government is ready for talks with top rebel leaders at any time and accept their justified demands,” he added.
The Soren government’s “indifferent” attitude towards fighting red terror in the state has invited the wrath of the opposition parties. “The Shibu Soren government has to deal with the menace rather than wait for a dialogue which looks highly improbable and is costing dearly,” said state Congress spokesman Radha Krishna Kishore.
Jharkhand Vikas Morcha chief Babulal Marandi said, “It seems the current alliance has come to power on the strength of these Naxalites rather than popular vote. I want a specific answer whether the government is in favour of the Green-Hunt operation or not.”
While the political blame game is on, the morale of the police forces in both states is low as they admit that the operation has failed to yield results.
A week after an IG-rank officer in Jharkhand admitted that the joint operations of the two states were a failure, a West Bengal Police DIG involved in the anti-Naxalite operations made similar observations. “We have failed to break their (Maoists) resources and got our selves entangled reaching nowhere,” the DIG said.
Blaming the neighbouring states, a senior police officer said, “Jharkhand and Bihar despite pressure from the Union home ministry are not extending their local police support to hunt down the Maoists. This is only boosting their morale. They will come and leave Bengal gunning down people like at the Shilda camp.” However, the Jharkhand DGP assured the success of the operations. “There is no possibility of calling off the operations unless the entire area is free from Maoists,” DGP Ahmad said after a high-level meeting with police and district officials.
He denied the possibility of withdrawal of central forces from the red zone (border of West Bengal and Orissa) and added that the second phase to flush out the Naxalites would begin soon.
In neighbouring West Bengal, a special IG of the Eastern Frontier Rifles, Benoy Chakraborty, blamed the superintendent of police, Manoj Verma, and other senior officers for the Maoist massacre at Shilda. “The incident happened due to the utterly ignorant attitude of the state government. The SP is fully responsible for the incident,” he said at a press conference.
Chakraborty’s outburst led to reports that he had been suspended, which prompted a protest demonstration by the families of the jawans killed in the Shilda massacre. However, later on Sunday, DGP Bhupinder Singh denied that Chakraborty had been suspended. “I have not received any letter from the government. I can not say what will happen on Monday,” Singh said.
The IG, who had his face covered with a black mask, alleged that the Shilda camp was “unprofessionally” set up at a crowded place making it difficult for the EFR jawans to function.
“Over the years, the basic needs of EFR personnel have been overlooked and they were being inhumanely treated. It is unfortunate that no sympathy was shown to the dead EFR jawans and rather their role was criticised during the Maoist attack. Despite the unsafe location, our officers managed to gun down five Maoists. I have no regret what I had said. I covered my face for my security,” Chakraborty said.
Admitting that the Maoists have an upper hand in the belt, a senior police officer blamed the lack of infrastructure. “The Maoists have succeeded because of our lack of alertness and poor infrastructure. There are many issues, which will never allow us to win this battle,” the officer said.
According to sources, the Bengal government received Rs 113.74 crore from the Centre between 2006 and 2009 to combat the Maoist menace, but only Rs 61.01 crore have been utilised.