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Friday, November 25, 2011

State steps up border vigil Police escort for forest team SUMAN K. SHRIVASTAVA

Ranchi, Nov. 25: Jharkhand police apprehend strikes by Maoists in retaliation to the death of their hooded mastermind, Kishan, and have thus ordered security forces manning areas near the Bengal border to thwart any move by rebels to sneak in.

"We have put police stations, particularly those bordering Bengal, on high alert to thwart any move of Maoists from Bengal to either retaliate or sneak into Jharkhand," DGP G.S. Rath told The Telegraph today.

The DGP believed that though Kishan's killing was a setback for the Maoist movement, it would not drastically alter the state's strategy against the Naxalites and there was no room "for complacency".

Rath said, "The killing of Kishan will not make much of a difference in our approach to handling Maoists, as Kishan did not enjoy much influence in Jharkhand. So, Maoist terror will continue."

In fact, the Maoist movement in Jharkhand has been operated by various leaders from Chhattisgarh and Bihar. The Saranda area, parts of which were recently cleansed of rebels by the security forces after about a decade, was controlled by Prashant Bose, alias Kishan Da.

Bihari Maoist leaders, added Rath, controlled their activities in Palamau.

Police officers in border areas, added inspector-general (operations) S.N. Pradhan, had been asked to keep tabs on the movement of Maoists.

"It is difficult to seal the borders along Bengal. We expect retaliation from them (Maoists) as the place where Kishan was killed is near the Jharkhand border. So, Jharkhand is quite likely to be a target of their retaliation," he pointed out.

At the same time, the police went ahead with its scheduled plan of sending in officials from the administration into the Saranda forests to lay the groundwork for a series of development projects that have been planned for 56 villages in West Singhbhum after they were freed from rebel influence.

Today's exercise was a re-run of a similar initiative, aptly titled Anaconda Returns, which lasted for about seven days from November 13.

"We have started the operation in Saranda without losing much time. We are already conducting operations in other areas like Bundu-Tamar — to track Kundan Pahan — Sarayu forests of Latehar and Bokaro — to track Navin Manjhi — since Wednesday," Pradhan said.

CRPF DIG Bhanu Pratap Singh, who is in charge of Chaibasa operational area, confirmed that the initiative had been launched. "We helped the civil administration from November 13 to November 19 to venture into villages like Tirilposhi, Noagaon and Thalkobad, among others. The second phase, expected to last for a week, will take officials to Chitanagara, Baliba and Koelbera," he said.

Around half a dozen teams, each comprising five to six officials, have fanned out into the interiors to help establish the beginnings of a civil administration. A posse of central paramilitary and state police personnel are assisting the district administration by providing them security.

"The purpose," Bhanu Pratap said, "was to prepare detailed project reports of various roads to be laid in Saranda, identify places to set up police camps, panchayat bhavans and anganwadi centres, and also distribute old-age pensions under social security scheme," he explained.

The Saranda development plan, a brainchild of Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, was conceptualised in September. Ramesh, who visited Ranchi last month, sent a proposal to home minister P. Chidambaram, seeking his support for a slew of development activities his ministry wanted to launch in the forests of West Singhbhum.

The proposal includes a number of initiatives on housing and healthcare. A boost to employment will come in the form of MGNREGS that will be used to develop land and build roads.

Bandh call

Maoists have called a two-day Bengal bandh from November 26 to protest against the killing of their leader, Kishan. However, the police are not taking chances as the outfit is said to be observing a "protest" in Jharkhand.

"We are not taking chances and have kept security forces on alert to thwart any untoward incident," said Pradhan.

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