As security forces continue to flush out CPI-Maoists from Lalgarh in West Bengal, there is a fear that a similar situation may occur in the Latehar district of Jharkhand if steps are not taken immediately.
Latehar, which has seen large-scale Maoist violence during the general elections, has been a stronghold of the extremists. The district's hilly terrain and dense forests make it inaccessible to the security forces and a 'safe zone' for the Maoists, who, according to police sources, have consolidated their position. The area is also surrounded by other Maoist strongholds like Chatra, Palamau, Garhwa, Giridih and Hazaribagh.
According to a senior officer of the state's special branch, the Barhania incident, in which five innocent villagers were killed by security forces, had given the Maoists the much needed 'spark' to create a Lalgarh-like situation. However, it did not happen because the outfit did not have a 'leader of stature', who could have led an 'effective attack' on the government.
"In Lalgarh, Maoists took control of the area by alienating the people from the government. That was possible due to continuous monitoring by Koteshwar Rao alias Kishanji, a member of the central committee of the banned outfit. But in Latehar, no such top leader, having 'acceptability', camped after the Barhania incident. Otherwise, the situation would have gone out of control," the officer said.
According to him, if effective steps are not taken by the state government, Latehar may witness a Lalgarh-like situation. The Maoists, he added, also showed their might when they hijacked the Mugalsarai-Barkakana passenger train on April 22 for four hours. The police did not dare reach the spot and the Maoists released the passengers on their own wish.
"Regarding the Barhania incident, the state government first termed the victims as extremists. But when the Maoists protested, the government agreed to get the incident probed after which the victims were found to be villagers. In fact their kin were given Rs 1 lakh compensation also recently. The government also transferred DC, SP and DIG of the area, after the incident. All this could have turned the situation volatile but thankfully it did not happen. But any slackness on part of government may invite trouble in the area in future," said the officer.
© TNN / July 1, 2009