Monday, November 19, 2007

Ground Zero not for CRPF

Ground Zero not for CRPF

Nandigram, Nov. 18: The Bengal government today asked the Central Reserve Police Force to shift all its five camps further away from the trouble-prone areas to pockets that have remained CPM strongholds throughout the last 10 months.

Yesterday, the CRPF said its camps were not close enough to the trouble spots and that it wanted to set up a few in the interiors.

The force was bewildered by today’s decision, especially because its demand for a camp at Takapura was turned down. “The proposal was shot down. We don’t understand why,” an officer said.

CRPF deputy inspector-general Alok Raj said: “We have no idea about the five new sites and the intelligence feed that led to the choice.”

“Our prime concern remains the affected people, but we are not sure how far we will be useful to them,” he added.

The decision to relocate the camps came hours after director-general of police A.B. Vohra met senior officers of the district police and the central force at Nandigram police station this morning.

The CRPF has been asked to move from Nandigram College to Tengua, from Rajaramchowk to Jellingham, from Khodambari to Khejuri and Teropokhia and from Gokulnagar to Pankhai.

In most of these areas, the CRPF has been asked to pitch tents as there are no houses where the jawans and the officers can stay.

A paramilitary officer said it would take them at least two days to settle down and get a feel of the place before starting patrolling.

The delay will “slow down the confidence-building process”, he added.

Today’s decision has left the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee stumped. Many of its leaders alleged that the move was aimed at helping CPM supporters move around freely on motorcycles in the “recaptured” areas and terrorise people.

The meeting at the police station tried to work out ways for the return of the refugees from relief camps.

Abu Taher, a Pratirodh Committee convener, said: “Forget women, even men can’t think of returning to Satengabari, Ranichowk, Kamalpur, Tekhali or Akhandabari. We have been asking for CRPF camps repeatedly at these places but our plea was not taken into consideration even at today’s meeting. Why? Don’t you see the reason?”

The police brass refused to see “politics” in the relocation of CRPF camps.

“We had a detailed discussion about the modalities of setting up the camps and things should work out fine. I hope the people regain their confidence gradually and return home,” Vohra said.

His words had few takers in the relief camps.

Many of them have already been threatened against entering the fray in next year’s rural elections. “A few who dared to return home were told their coffins were ready. There would be only one punishment for filing a nomination against a CPM candidate,” said Bharat Mondal of Khodambari.

Committee supporters Babulal Akhtar and Sheikh Shahauddin were arrested today when they returned home to Hajrakata. The police said they were wanted in several cases of rioting.

Shahauddin told The Telegraph two days ago that the CPM had set a Rs 1.5-lakh tax for him to return home.

“No one will dare to go back if such arrests continue,” a villager said.

At the camp, Sheikh Moti of Bandhavbari said: “My wife fled home with bruises this morning.”

Hunt for ‘rape’ duo

Nandigram police are looking for alleged CPM supporters Sagar Das and Kalipada Gayen in connection with the “rape” of a woman from Garupara.

A mother of three sons and two daughters, she was alone at her house when CPM cadres allegedly raped her twice on Wednesday and Thursday. She managed to reach her husband at a relief camp in Nandigram town yesterday.