KOLKATA, 21ST OCTOBER: EVIDENCE at hand is a clear revelation that the Trinamuli workers acted in close cooperation of the ‘Maoists’ in the killing of two police officers and the abduction of the officer-in-charge of the Sankrail police station in the afternoon of 20 October.
We learn from various sources including local villagers of the zone that the gruesome killing of the two police personnel was followed by the abduction of the officer-in-charge at gun-point. He was then taken some couple of hundred metres away from the police station and made to sit under a tree. He had his hands tied behind his back. He was never blindfolded. He was put in charge of local Trinamuli toughs as the ‘Maoists’ led by a former student of a university near Kolkata mounted the looting at the nearby bank.
TRINAMULI ‘SAFE HOUSES’
The officer-in-charge was then taken on motorbike, his hands yet tied, to a ‘safe house’ close by of a Trinamuli goon at Dulungadihi under the Bandhgara gram panchayat. The route cut across the NH 6 at several places and led to the dense forestry area where the village is located. The gram panchayat is ‘run’ by a combination of the opposition groups there with covert outside support of the ‘Maoists’ and at least one splinter group of the Jharkhandis.
The next morning, the Trinamuli goons with one or possibly two ‘Maoist’ armed escorts, motorcycled the officer-in-charge to the Lalgarh area under the Binpur I block. They crossed an unused irrigation canal on the way and stopped for some time to revamp their strategy. Extensive conversation was held over satellite phones with two or three ‘Maoist’ commander-level operators in Jharkhand across the porous border. The place of stoppage was Laxmanpur, we learn.
Subsequent to that, the Trinamulis escorted the officer-in-charge to the Buxi village at Dharampur near Lalgarh. The abductors supped at this place and also undertook further confabulations with the ‘Maoists’ more of whom had by then come from across the provincial border including the self-styled supremo, ‘Kishanji.’ There ensued a bitter debate ensued as to the course of future moves.
SPLINTERING OF VIEWS
The opinion that finally prevailed was the ‘moderate’ one among the rapidly splintering ‘Maoist’ ranks, much like the disintegration, internecine squabbles, and finally ‘comradely killings’ period of the late 1960s when the ‘Naxalite’ menace with Pradesh Congress backing threatened the democratic fabric of Bengal, leading an anti-Communist crusade.
We learn that as the ‘Maoists’ have come to find that Bengal was not like the other states, they carry their depredations in, and that here a strong left-democratic movement fulminates, and that is principally the ‘reason why’ the ‘moderate’ splinter among the killers prevailed and it was decided to call for soft terms in order to scrabble around for an excuse to release the abducted police officer.
In the whole process, a small section of the powerful media houses were kept ‘on board,’ and their views sought. The chief of an opposition political group was fully informed of the shape things were going through.
Then, instead of calling for such actions on the Bengal Left Front government’s part as the withdrawal of central forces, something that the Trinamuli supremo had all along harped on, ad nauseum, over her favoured TV network, or, for example, the release of the criminal Chhatradhar Mahato, presently in jail custody and being interrogated relentlessly, the ‘Maoists’ chose not to push the Bengal Left Front government too much and called instead for the release of 70, then 50, and then nine persons who had been in custody on suspicion of harbouring ‘Maoists’ from across Jharkhand and Orissa. The persons in fact were in line to be released without conditionalities as it happened.
Another factor underlined the isolation of the ‘Maoists’ in Bengal. This was their dependence on the Trinamuli network to organise the operation, and to get through to the media and the police with their terms, terms that weakened, as we said, by the hour. The killers also kept in mind the extreme antithetical reaction that had spread across Jharkhand and beyond among the common people especially of the rural stretches over the beheading of the hapless and abducted police officer Francis Induwar in Jharkhand some days back.
What followed after the officer-in-charge was ‘released’ to us newspersons as a ‘liberated’ ‘prisoner of war’ comprised cheap, soap opera drama, and the big media lapped it up, vying with one another to say who had actually ‘held the hand’ of the officer-in-charge first, and who had ‘led him to safety.’ Local sources have already informed us that behind the shroud-covered faces of the ‘Maoists’ on the spot, other than the ubiquitous ‘Kishanji,’ were in fact known criminals who are presently serving the anti-poor cause of the Trinamulis and the Left sectarians in the red clay areas.
Did the Bengal government ‘compromise’ in releasing the women in custody in exchange for the officer-in-charge? The answer has to be sought in the weakness rather that strength of the abductors. On the morning of 22 October when informed of the fact that a large and heavily-armed police contingent was stationed at Purnapani and were advancing on the village where the officer-in-charge was held, Bengal CPI (M) state secretary, Biman Basu who has extensive topographical knowledge of the red clay zones of Bengal told People’s Democracy, that with the Lalgarh border under a tight seal, the push from Purnapani would leave the ‘Maoists’ no choice but to put up a last gasp fight, and go under.
The police chose to back off rather that make the desperadoes go into killing the officer-in-charge out of consideration of political mileage. There is another angle to the story that reveals this. Interestingly, ‘Kishanji’ later told newspersons during the release that the brief exchange of bullets near Purnapani was ‘worrisome’ as the bullets coming in ‘would have killed the officer-in-charge.’ The latter however disclosed after release that he was indeed several kilometres away from where the face-off took place, and only faintly heard the gun shots. Thus, it is clear that had the police advanced, the Trinamuli-‘Maoists’ would have killed the officer-in-charge and then the Bengal Left Front government blamed for the incident. This was not desirable at all.
The Bengal government has in the meanwhile continued to search for the fate of the two police constables, Sabir Ali Mollah and Kanchan Gorai, who had been kidnapped earlier, and the concerned officials said that the search had indeed never have been called off at any point of time. It is nonetheless feared that the two police personnel may well have been taken away to Jharkhand. When asked by newspersons about the condition of the two police constables, ‘Kishanji’ was irritatingly vague saying that since ‘another commander’ was ‘in place’ at that point of time he was not able to come up with any ‘answer or clarification.’
By B Prasant