Sunday, November 11, 2007

CRPF on way, after governor’s alert

CRPF on way, after governor’s alert

New Delhi, Nov. 10: A 1,000-strong CRPF battalion will finally march into Nandigram — but it has taken the governor’s Diwali fireworks to do what the chief minister’s request couldn’t.

The Union government today decided to send the contingent after Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s statement yesterday where he quoted the state home secretary to describe the region as a war zone.

The first batch of central paramilitary should be in the state by tomorrow.

The decision, pending with the Prime Minister’s Office since Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asked for the force about a fortnight back, came days after sources in the Union home ministry said minister Shivraj Patil had expressed his inability to spare any CRPF battalion.

Not only were all 191 battalions committed, the situation in Nandigram did not warrant a deployment, they had added.

Union minister P.R. Das Munshi had written to Patil, saying there was no need for central forces in Nandigram.

This morning, Patil spoke to Bhattacharjee and urged him to take immediate steps to restore normality in the area. He also asked the chief minister to ensure that people displaced from their homes could return and peace was restored.

Sources said Patil had conveyed the contents of the governor’s report to the PMO and got the go-ahead to send the battalion.

They said the Centre had been keeping a close watch on the situation and had earlier desisted from sending in forces because of the sensitivity of the situation.

“When ruling party cadres are creating unrest, it is somewhat awkward for a central force to go and enforce peace. But the situation has gone out of hand and it is time for the CRPF to step in. The Centre gave the state government ample opportunity to maintain law and order on its own,” a home ministry official said.

Patil urged the Bengal government to “make optimum use” of state security forces as they were familiar with the language and the terrain.

“Local police always have an advantage. They can help restore peace and normality in the area much faster if they want,” the home ministry official said.

The sources said the CRPF was withdrawing companies — each has about 125 personnel — from states like Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Jharkhand. “They are drawing from various states so that deployment in one place does not get substantially depleted,” the official added.