The concerns raised by various reports earlier seemed to have not made any impact on the authorities in India who still talk about going soft on the Maoist terrorists (Naxalites) in India. The “Red-Corridor” as it is (in)famously known, stretches over multiple states in India. These terrorists who call themselves the voice of the poor and oppressed have been on an overdrive in the past few months killing hundreds of civilians and security personnel. In the latest incident they hijacked a passenger train thereby holding the whole nation to ransom. The train in question is arguably the most coveted train in India, the Rajdhani Express.
The train – one of India’s fastest, swankiest passenger trains – had been hijacked by at least 300 ax- and sword-wielding Maoist rebels Tuesday morning as it sped through West Bengal on its way from the eastern state of Orissa toward the Indian capital. After a five-hour drama, during which the driver was taken hostage and passengers were forced off the train and into the jungle, the rebels surrendered. No one was hurt.
While people are regularly killed and looted by these criminals, the most shocking element of the whole episode is the clout and sympathy they find in political and so-called “intellectual” groups. While the spate of violence and crime goes unabated after a lot of dilly-dally the central government recently gave a go ahead to carry out operations against the Naxalites. Though the level of commitment from the various political parties still seems varied and casts doubts on the intentions.
In the recent Rajdhani express incident the police FIR lodged tells a story in itself.
In what is being seen as a move to shield the Maoists, there is no mention of the Maoists or even the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA)in the FIR that was lodged against the hijackers of the Rajdhani Express by the Railway authorities, in the Rajdhani hostage case.
Questions are now being raised over why Mamata Banerjee’s railways ministry has not mentioned the PCPA or the Maoists’ in the FIR.
This new information comes to light despite the Maoists and the PCPA claiming responsibility for the hijack of the Rajdhani.
While the political parties exchange allegations over support to naxalities, security of the hapless passengers remains at stake. Everyday millions of Indians commute on the rail network.
Although some known faces of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, including Santosh Patra, were among the crowd, a railway official was quoted by sources saying “Who will identify them? We do not know any of them?”
Though later on Thursday evening the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), in what seemed to be a “damage-control” exercise filed a FIR naming naxals as the perperators.
“When the police forces were heading towards the train on October 27 they were fired upon by the People’s Committee Against Political Atrocities(PCPA) and Maoists. An FIR has been lodged against them for attacking the police and attempting to prevent them from doing their lawful duty,” a senior police officer told PTI.
In an earlier revelation many national newspapers carried the news of the amount of fund and source of funds that these Naxalities have in their kitty. The sources peg the value of the “business” at INR 1,500- crores which is raised mainly through mafia style extortions especially from the corporates operating mines and related industries in the naxal belt.
Naxalism, which started off as a people’s movement, has now become a nearly Rs 1500 crore organised extortion business in the form of ‘levy’, police and central security officials said.
CPI (Maoist) and especially its splinter groups, which extort the money hardly pump it back for running the movement but instead use it to maintain luxurious lifestyles for their masters, the officials said.
The report also exposed the way these militants are raising funds from the hapless industrialist in these areas. This has in many cases also led industries to shut down operations after some of the employees were abducted or killed. The area is widely under developed and poor people get lured to join the “movement” with hope of getting “social justice” and as reports indicate “wages” for being part of the gang.
If a conservative estimate is taken of the income generated from ‘levy’ in the seven most Naxal-infested states — Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra — security agencies feel the collection from these areas, which are commonly referred to as ‘red corridor‘, amount to nearly Rs 1,500 crore.
The Naxals have even come out with a card, recovered by forces, which clearly shows the exact amount of ‘levy‘ to be paid by contractors, petrol pump owners and land owners.
It usually ranges from 10 per cent of the project cost for those making unpaved roads to five per cent for small bridges and others.
Such militants are also encouraging production of narcotics to fund their groups. While they lead a lavish life from the funds they are forcing common people to death traps.
“The chiefs lead a luxurious life with all modern facilities. Though, they forcibly recruit children in their cadre, their own kids study in good public schools,” officials said.
The Naxals also encourage local villagers to undertake opium cultivation, just like insurgents in Northeast states.
Of the total 1.07 lakh kg of ganja or marijuana seized in the country in 2007, heavy quantity of it was from Nagaland (15,489 kg), Madhya Pradesh (14,815 kg), Maharashtra (12,551 kg), Chhattisgarh (7,470 kg) and Andhra Pradesh (7,059 kg).
The naxalities have also been targeting banks to fund their luxuries.
After the recent theft of Rs 5 crore from a bank in Jharkhand, the state police are all set to work out a strategy to prevent Naxals from targeting banks in several parts of the state.
Sources in the police said the theft in Jharkhand was a part of Communist Party of India (Maoists)’s decision to target bank money. “In November 2007, the central committee of the CPI(M) had asked its members to ensure that substantial percentage of tax was collected from banks. The top leadership of the party is of the view that levy should not come only from old sources like Gram Pradhans and contractors in the Naxal-affected areas,” a source said. Naxals who operate at the ground level have been told to target banks in Uttar Pradesh too, he added.
In a report published by the BBC the level of sophistication and organization of these terrorists is clearly visible. The details were revealed when BBC landed up with a copy of the “preliminary interrogation report” of Narla Ravi Sharma, a senior Naxalite leader who was arrested a fortnight ago by the security forces.
He is quoted as saying that the annual expenditure incurred by the Maoists in the Bihar-Jharkhand region is around $200,000.
The Maoist leader said that all their members were paid monthly “wages”, though he refused to divulge how much.
Mr Sharma was arrested in mid-October along with his wife, Anuradha, from the forests near Hazaribagh town in Jharkhand.
His revelations about corporate funding of Maoists has prompted police and intelligence officials to suggest that the massive military effort planned against the rebels will not yield the desired results unless their “finance line” is choked.
This is not the first time Indian firms doing business in rebel-dominated areas have been accused of funding the rebels.
In the 1980s and 1990s big tea and oil companies were accused of regularly giving funds to the separatist United Liberation Front of Assam and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland in the north-east.
Corporates generally pay up to avoid disruption or abductions – and business leaders say that the government should not punish them unless they can provide security to companies operating in Maoist-affected areas.
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