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Backlash buzz stalls CRPF camp shift

Calcutta/Nandigram, Nov. 19: The decision to relocate CRPF camps in Nandigram has been reversed, apparently to avert a brewing backlash from the homeless.

State police today said the central force was not asked to move its camps away from Nandigram’s trouble spots. “I gave no such instructions,” director-general of police A.B. Vohra said at Writers’ Buildings.

Alok Raj, the CRPF deputy inspector-general, had said yesterday that the state police chief had asked the central force to shift its five camps further away to areas that have been relatively free of violence.

The disclosure had fuelled allegations that the state government was giving a free hand to CPM cadres to terrorise their opponents.

District police sources today said the decision to shift the CRPF camps had been taken and then reversed for fear of protests from the homeless who have been insisting on CRPF presence in their villages.

“The Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee members have been seething since two of their men were arrested yesterday on the charge of rioting,” a senior officer of East Midnapore police said. “Our top brass realised that if the CRPF camps were shifted, there could be another crisis. So they changed their decision.”

Home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray echoed DGP Vohra. “The camps will be shifted, if at all, only after a review of the situation in Nandigram,” he said.

The inspector-general of police (law and order), Raj Kanojia, said the reports about the camps being shifted had created an “unnecessary” controversy. “The CRPF camps will remain where they are.”

He said the CRPF and the police were working together to restore normality in Nandigram. “We may take steps to relocate the camps only if the situation changes,” he said.

“Now the main task is to instil a sense of security among the people and make sure that criminals do not come back. The state police and the CRPF have opened a joint control room in Nandigram.”

CRPF officials said in Delhi that there was no question of relocating the Nandigram camps till the situation became normal.

“The state government can get away by not cooperating with the CRPF. They can also ask us to move our camps. But they cannot stop us from being deployed at places where the situation is tense,” a senior officer said.

According to sources, the state government can deter the CRPF only by informing Delhi in writing that the central force was no longer required.

A women’s squad of the CRPF today staged a a flag march through areas that bore the brunt of the CPM attacks. “This is to build confidence among the people so that they can return home,” commandant Seema Tolodi, who led the march, said.

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