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Centre spares Naxalite ‘friends’

New Delhi, April 10: A crackdown that might have been labelled “India’s McCarthyism” was about to unfold early this year but for a “top-level intervention”.

The home ministry came under intense pressure in February to act against academics and bureaucrats perceived to be Naxalite sympathisers, it emerged today. Those on the undeclared blacklist included several senior serving and retired bureaucrats.

A section of the home ministry officials, advocating a tough line against “overground” sympathisers of Naxalites, raised the pitch after arming itself with a report on a seminar held in January on the campus of a university in Delhi.

The report, drawn up by home ministry officials, said the tenor of the seminar was “pro-Naxalite”. The participants, who included bureaucrats, academics and students, engaged themselves in “anti-state” discussions that seemed to justify armed uprising, it said.

By February, the officials behind the initiative had begun to discuss specific punitive measures that could be taken against the “sympathisers”. Penalties put on the table included shunting officials to nondescript areas and cutting down retirement benefits.

However, “intervention from the top” — sources would not identify the person but would only say no politician was involved — nipped the plan.

A near-certain public furore and the ruling establishment’s well-known eagerness to preserve its liberal credentials were the primary factors that forced the rethink, the sources said.

A clampdown would have drawn comparisons with Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch-hunt in the US in the 1950s. Then too, the prime targets were bureaucrats and teachers, besides showbiz personalities.

Suspicion of growing Naxalite influence in urban areas had prompted central intelligence units to draw up a list of 664 organisations and their functionaries for scrutiny.

The drive assumed urgency after pockets of protests began mushrooming against land acquisition for industry in several parts of the country.

The Centre feels that industrial belts such as Gurgaon and Faridabad would become a fertile ground for Naxalites to strike root with the help of the urban support groups.

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