As the West Bengal government plans the release of 52 political prisoners, including two top leaders of the CPI(Maoist) state committee, the Centre has warned the state that Naxalites continue to regroup and train cadre in Naxalite-infested Junglmahal area.
The list of 52 prisoners considered for release from the state’s jails include topMaoists Chandi Sarkar and Pradip Chatterjee, arrested in 2005 and 2008, respectively, besides leaders of local separatist outfits from Kamtapur and Cooch Behar, sources in the state’s intelligence apparatus told ET.
Sarkar and Chatterjee are high up in the Maoist hierarchy as they are members of the outfit’s West Bengal state committee. Touted as a prized catch of the security forces, they are wanted in serious cases relating to attacks on police forces as well as civilians.
Obviously, given their seniority in the Maoist hierarchy and high chances of their escaping into the jungles after release to resume their attacks against state forces, their release is not being taken too well by central agencies, which fear it will set back counter-Naxal operations by several years.
However, theMamata Banerjee government is planning to go-ahead with the release of jailed Maoists as a confidence building measure ahead of initiation of peace talks with them. It has decided not to oppose the bail petition of these leaders in the courts.
Peace talks with the outlawed Left-wing extremists was a pre-poll promise made by the TrinamoolCongress. Though some Maoist elements are reportedly in touch with the state government, no serious peace moves have been made as yet from either side.
The state government is yet to formally inform the Centre of its plans to release the 52 political prisoners. Though concurrence of the Centre is not a necessity, the state government is expected to seek its opinion on the matter since CPI(Maoist) is a nationally-banned outfit.
Even before the Mamata Banerjee government had initiated peace overtures, the Centre has been regularly sharing intelligence inputs on continuing efforts of Maoist to regroup, re-arm and train cadre. Over the last couple of months, the Centre sent several advisories to the West Bengal Chief Secretary, warning of regrouping of Maoists and continued training sessions for cadre in Junglemahal area.
Given the absence of any let-up in their activities, the West Bengal government may be taking a big risk by agreeing to release top Maoist leaders. As it is, there is no go-ahead forthcoming from top Maoist leadership for initiation of peace talks in West Bengal.
“Obviously, CPI(Maoist) is a national outfit with presence in many states. How can it have piecemeal approach by abjuring violence in one state? Even if this does happen in West Bengal, its cadre may not lay down weapons. Also, they may shift to another state and continue violent activities there,” a senior official of the security establishment said.
As the Centre worries over top Maoist leaders getting freedom as part of political peace moves, the only ray of hope is that the court may desist from granting bail to those involved in serious cases, including sedition, out of its own volition, irrespective of the state government’s decision not to oppose their bail. Economic Times