The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha brake on arrests ‘at random’

Calcutta, Oct. 7: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today asked police to ensure that “innocents are not harassed”.

Echoing Mamata Banerjee and non-CPM Left intellectuals on “random” arrest of party workers and subsequent torture, he said: “Don’t arrest people at random. Instead, arrest those having links with extremist activities.”

The statement was made at a meeting of district magistrates and police superintendents at Writers’ Buildings this morning. Police carried out a security check of the premises with the help of a sniffer dog before the meet. Bhattacharjee also met with departmental secretaries.

Briefing newspersons later, the chief minister said security was being tightened in the 10 border districts where Border Security Force personnel were not adequate. “We have only 22 BSF battalions against the requirement of 34,” he said.

Fencing work was also on to block people from illegally crossing the border, he said. But because fences hindered the movement of people living close by, “we have asked the district authorities to issue identity cards to help them move freely”, Bhattacharjee added.

He said that while the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation was active in three north Bengal districts, the People’s War had made its presence felt in three south Bengal districts. “We have made adequate arrangements to tackle the extremists at any cost,” he said.

Sources said Bhattacharjee expressed unhappiness over the slow pace of development in districts where the KLO and the PW have consolidated their base. He asked district magistrates to undertake development projects in areas where the extremists were making inroads.

Bhattacharjee also asked the police to intensify vigil at some pandals during the Pujas. “We must maintain peace during the festive days,” he said.

Asked about the recovery of landmines from an East Midnapore-bound bus near the Howrah terminus, he declined comment. “The matter is under investigation and I will not say anything on this at the moment,” he said. But he conceded that there was a threat perception and assured that the government was taking necessary steps.

Director general of police, D.C. Vajpai later told a meeting with superintendents of police to identify the pandals where security would have to be tightened in view of the strike on the Akshardham temple.

He is reported to have asked them to specially deploy enough armed policemen and home guards at crowded pandals in six troubled districts of north and south Bengal.

Poverty list

Bhattacharjee is believed to have resented the manner in which district authorities prepared the below poverty line list in some areas. He said that it had come to his notice that in at least 60 blocks, about 50 per cent people were living below the poverty line. “This is impossible. How could this happen'” he asked.

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