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Cops step up Naxalite chase

Dharmapuri, Nov. 26: For the third day today, police teams were searching the area for Naxalites who have set up base at Uthankarai, 45 km from here, bringing back memories of two decades ago when Dharmapuri was a rebel hub.

Twenty-five activists of the Revolutionary Youth League (RYL), a wing of the People’s War Group, have been rounded up and sent to judicial remand. Most of the arrested are under 30 and five are women.

The 30-year-old state organiser of the outfit, Siva alias Parthiban, was killed in an encounter on Sunday. Another Naxalite, Balan, suffered serious injuries after a bullet grazed his head in an encounter yesterday.

Police captured two Naxalites today, including a Brahmin girl, in the mangroves adjoining Pochampalli. At least four are still at large.

An alert by an Uthankarai resident brought the police to the two-acre mangrove the Naxalites had taken on lease and turned into a training camp for their Tamil Nadu cadre. For the first two days, the rebels were mainly imparting physical training and their neighbours did not mind. But on the third day, someone spotted pipe bombs and other arms and informed the police.

The tip-off led the authorities to a group of at least 32 activists in Dharmapuri, once the favourite haunt of Naxalites. After keeping a low profile for years, the Naxalites appeared to have planned something big and had drawn cadre from various districts, including Chennai..

Surrounded by a local police team, the Naxalites fired “indiscriminately” from refined and indigenous “12bore, long barrel and short barrel guns”. The policemen returned the fire, said Dharmapuri superintendent of police K. Periaiah. He was in the midst of search operations at Pochampalli, 30 km from here, when contacted.

“I respect human rights but I had to protect the lives of the villagers who had come forward to assist in nabbing them,” he said.

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