The menace of Maoism has threatened the State of West Bengal for years, especially the Jangalmahal region. The area comprising of West Midnapore, Purulia, Jhargram, and Bankura districts had been the bastion of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). They were successful in setting up a ‘liberated zone’ in the Jangalmahal region between 2009 and 2011.
The Re-grouping of Maoists
Following a fierce gunbattle between the Left-backed extremist group and the security forces, 350 civilians lost their lives while around 80 Maoist leaders were neutralised. However, more than 50 security personnel were also martyred in one of the toughest forest corridors of West Bengal. The domestic terror outfit lost their prominence after their leader Malloula Koteswar Rao aka Kishan ji was gunned down in 2011. The remaining Maoists had been lying lowkey since then.
While they are believed to have been camping in East Singhbhum district in Jharkhand, the Maoists had been frequenting Jhargram for several months. The fear surrounding the re-grouping of the Maoists seemed to have come alive in light of four separate incidents in the Jangalmahal region of the State. The State administration and intelligence agencies are now pondering hard on tacking the situation.
Maoists rob tourists in broad daylight
Recently, Maoists robbed a group of tourists in broad daylight at gunpoint near Tangi Kusumgram in the Simulpal area of Belpahari in West Bengal. The tourists who had come from Kharagpur were forced to give away their mobile phones. Since it was a tourist spot, an atmosphere of panic and fear had gripped the area ever since the incident. Reportedly, the Maoists had come to the spot in a group of six, three of them being women. Everyone was equipped with a gun. They stopped the tourists, snatched their mobile phones, and made their way to the neighbouring Jharkhand.
Maoists threaten contractor to stop road construction
According to the Superintendent of Police (Jhargram) Amit Kumar Bharat Rathod, three Maoist posters have been found in the Bhulabedha area in Belpahari in Jhargram district of West Bengal. While appearances of such posters were a common occurrence prior to 2009 in Jangalmahal, their resurgence indicated the re-grouping of the dreaded Maoist group.
“Thikadar Saurav, road er kaaj bondho karun (Contractor Sourav, stop the road work)”, a poster read. The posters bore the name of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and threatened one contractor named Sourav Roy to stop road construction on the 40 km stretch from Dharsa to Paradi. Roy, who has been unaware of this development, had however been continuing the construction work.
Maoists open fire at a cooking gas dealer
A month after the Maoists threatened a cooking gas dealer Bidyut Das of ‘consequences’ if he failed to pay ₹2 lac rupees, the dreaded terror outfit opened fired at him and his wife at 9:30 pm on August 28. The incident took place in Pocha Pani village in Belpahari in Jhargram district.
Reportedly, the couple were at the terrace when the Maoists fired shots at them. Hearing the sound of gunshots, Das’ wife jumped off the rooftop and sustained injuries. Taking advantage of the darkness, the Maoists then managed to flee the scene before they could be traced or apprehended. “It appears, the rebels are trying to regroup in this region and the attack on Das’ house is evidence,” a police officer was quoted as saying.
Maoists tell locals to celebrate August 15 as ‘Black Day’
Prior to Independence Day celebrations, the Maoists had put up posters outside houses, directing local people, in 2-3 villages of Bhulabheda in Jhargram to celebrate August 15 as ‘Black Day. “15 August kalo Dibos palon karun (Observe August 15 as a Black Day),” a poster threatened. The pamphlet also bore the name of CPI (Maoist).
Around 10-12 such hand-written posters were recovered by the Jhargram police. A senior police officer conceded, “Maoists no longer have any armed squad active in the state. Several Maoists had surrendered after the killing of dreaded Maoist leader Mallojula Koteswar Rao alias Kishanji in 2011. Such posters were found in West Midnapore last year as well. We are investigating.” While a probe had been initiated about the mysterious reappearance of such posters, none had been arrested or detained.
Cautioning about the new development, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar informed on the eve of death anniversary of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, “The dangerous head of Maoism is getting visible with support of state actors.” In a shocking turn of events, Mamata Banerjee had recently placed one Chhatradhar Mahato in the state committee of the Trinamool Congress party. Mahato had served 10 years in prison and was the convenor of the Maoist outfit named Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA).