New Delhi: A major witch hunt operation targeting NGOs with a ‘left liberal’ leaning is in the offing, say news observers. Others say that liberal people have nothing to worry about, only those who support armed revolution will be in trouble.
The Centre has directed security forces to identify and arrest “overground” Maoist strategists and supporters across the country to destroy the urban network of the rebels, apart from going all out against underground cadres, according to media reports. The basis of such action will be the various IB reports prepared by the state intelligence agencies.
The crackdown has netted nearly 500 urban Maoists in Chhattisgarh alone over the past year, according to a security official.
“A recent intelligence report suggests that several Maoist front organisations operating under the guise of non-governmental groups are active in urban areas and providing support and leadership to the underground rebels,” the official said.
“The security agencies have been asked to launch a crackdown on the urban network of the Maoists’ intellectual strategists and their supporters across the country.”
The Centre has asked the CRPF, the country’s primary counter-Maoist force, to be more “proactive” and work closely with state forces. The problematic thing is, according to those closely watching recent developments and rhetoric by the ruling party, that the state IB reports are not without political interference and ‘supervision’. In the absence of clear guidelines as to how these ‘Maoist supporters’ are to be identified, it will be the human rights based organisations, and those with dissenting viewppoints who can be branded ‘Maoists’ and just arrested.
CRPF director-general R.R. Bhatnagar told PTI that overground supporters were being arrested but he appeared to be focusing on villages.
“We are now going to the villages and we are trying to see that action is taken against their overground supporters and workers, ‘ jan militia’ and other people who give them the intelligence and local support,” Bhatnagar told the news agency.
An IB report said Maoist front organisations are active in cities like Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Madurai, Nagpur and Pune. Sources said the CRPF and state police forces were working in tandem to identify and apprehend overground supporters who have been helping Maoist cadres plan and execute attacks on security forces.
Maharashtra police had in a co-ordinated multi-city raid last week arrested five rights activists, alleging that they had plotted with Maoists to “overthrow the government”.
The arrests triggered outrage and condemnation across the country and many civil rights groups and lawyers called the near-simultaneous swoop a brutal attack on democratic rights.
The five activists, picked up on Tuesday, are now under house arrest on the Supreme Court’s orders. Five other activists who were arrested in June are in jail.
A newspaper, quoting its sources, said the Narendra Modi government is planning to create a “special force” – on a par with the Greyhounds and entirely funded by the Centre – to take on the Maoists in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa ( Odisha).
The Greyhounds are a dedicated anti-Maoist force for Andhra Pradesh, where the rebel movement suffered multiple setbacks and was forced to move into neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Orissa (Odisha).