Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Maoists had vowed to free jailed comrades in February

NEW DELHI: The daring jailbreak masterminded by Maoists in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh on Sunday may have caught the authorities napping but the ultras were merely doing what they had promised to do long back.

In February, the Maoists had held their ninth congress on the Jharkhand-Orissa border and resolved to free their comrades languishing in jails in several states. And if the Maoists stick to their word, jails in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra could be next in line where 48 of their hardcore activists have been behind bars for years. Incidentally, the resolution adopted at the congress is not a secret, and is readily available with the home ministry as well as the police of all 13 naxal-affected states.

Buoyed by their successful jailbreak operations in Jehanabad, Bihar (November 2005), and R Udaigiri, Orissa (March 2006), the Maoists had said in the resolution that they intended to carry out similar strikes in Chhattisgarh where 25 of their comrades were behind bars. The naxals held their ninth congress under the leadership of CPI (Maoist) in February at one of their forest hideouts along the Jharkhand-Orissa border where nearly 1,000 red ultras assembled and vowed to continue their armed struggle against the state. Security and intelligence agencies got to know about the gathering only when they dispersed, leaving copies of their resolution behind — a move viewed as an open challenge to the authorities.

The resolution, a copy of which is with the TOI, says, "This (ninth) congress resolves to strive to carry out every possible means to free our comrades from jails... with support from the masses, we had carried out historic actions such as the Jehanabad and R Udaigiri jailbreaks." Perhaps, this warning was not heeded by jail authorities in Chhattisgarh, where the ultras managed to free around 105 of their comrades in the Dantewada incident.

According to the resolution, while six comrades are lodged in Andhra jails, 26 are in Tamil Nadu and 16 in Karnataka. Besides, the ultras also expressed the need to free five comrades each from Asagarh, Bhamragarh and Tipragarh areas of Gadchiroli division and five from Gondia division (all in Maharashtra) who have been serving life imprisonment in different jails.

Though Maoist literature and the resolution have not carried operational details and modus-operandi, it hold enough inputs to send warning signals to state authorities. Realising the threat to jails in naxal-affected states, Union home secretary Madhukar Gupta had written to all states in September on the need to increase security in prisons and address the problem of overcrowding. In his letter, Gupta had also mentioned the need for prison reforms.

Meanwhile, in view of Sunday's incident, the home ministry, which reviewed the overall naxal situation on Monday, sought a detailed report from Chhattisgarh and directed the state government to beef up security and surveillance in and around jails. Incidentally, the Dantewada jailbreak came just two days after a meeting of the naxal taskforce in Bhubaneshwar on December 13-14, where the issue of providing more security in jails had figured prominently.


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