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‘Practice’ raid with Jharkhand ‘satisfactory’

March 11: The Bengal and Jharkhand governments are planning more joint security operations to flush out Maoists from West Midnapore, Purulia and East Singhbhum after an exploratory round that has been termed “satisfactory”.

Bengal director-general of police Bhupinder Singh today expressed “satisfaction” over Jharkhand police’s participation in the first phase — a four-day joint-operation that another officer described as a “practice match before the finals”.

“Much more than whether the four-day exercise yielded arrests or not, it’s good that Jharkhand police agreed to take part in the joint inter-state operations. Initially, they had reservations, citing some infrastructure problems. We are happy that they finally agreed to be part of the joint operation,” Singh said at Writers’ Buildings today.

The reservations of Jharkhand police apparently stemmed from chief minister Shibu Soren’s “soft corner” for the Maoists. Soren had cited “ill health” and skipped a meeting called by Union home minister P. Chidambaram to discuss the Maoist problem at Writers’ last month.

The Bengal government refused to call the exercise a part of Operation Green Hunt, a prickly moniker that has angered human rights activists. Officially, Green Hunt is under way only in Chhattisgarh but the name got associated with a wider multi-state offensive the Centre was planning but has not yet been launched in full scale.

“I am not aware of such a coinage,’’ chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti said, referring to Green Hunt.

Irrespective of the nomenclature of the exercise, the joint operation with Jharkhand seeks to address a long-pending concern of the Bengal government. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has been nudging the Centre to opt for such an operation because Maoists have been crossing over from Jharkhand to Bengal, carrying out strikes and fleeing back to hideouts in that state.

The Bengal inspector-general of police, Surajit Kar Purakayastha, said the first phase of the operation was more “exploratory” in nature, adding that neither Maoists were arrested nor shots fired. However, in Bokaro in Jharkhand, four Maoists, including an arms supplier from Bengal, have been arrested, sources said.

“The intention of our operation that began on March 7 was to ensure force co-ordination among states, familiarise the forces with the terrain and interact with villagers as part of confidence-building measures,” Purakayastha said.

“We found three abandoned Maoist camps, one in Belpahari and two in Jharkhand. We also came across some bunkers. There were no arrests as the Maoists had fled into deep forests,” he added.

A police officer who participated in the exercise said: “It was really like a practice match before the finals. We mainly gathered some experience in operating together.”

Aerial surveillance was carried out by three helicopters, mostly in Jharkhand.

Singh said similar inter-state operations with Jharkhand police would be launched again shortly. “As far as the four-day exercise is concerned, it’s over for the moment. The operation will be resumed after getting specific inputs. We had conducted similar operations with Orissa police in January this year,’’ Singh said.

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