The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha brake on KLO crackdown

Siliguri, Oct. 20: Police conducting random raids on north Bengal villages to flush out Kamtapur Liberation Organisation militants plan to “go-slow” on the advice of chief Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Under pressure from the Left Front constituents, especially the Forward Bloc and the RSP, which have considerable presence in the region, Bhattacharjee said at a recent meeting with district magistrates and superintendents of police in Calcutta that the police should not harass innocent villagers in the name of “search operations”.

Bhattacharjee also instructed the police not to harass and intimidate the “common public” while cracking down on the Naxalites after a section of the CPM expressed displeasure over the arrest of Koushik Ganguly, a teacher at Rajabazar Science College, on suspicion of being a People’s War sympathiser.

Highly-placed sources said all police stations in north Bengal, especially in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar, were asked to conduct raids only on the basis of specific information. “They were asked to be careful and not to act on mere hunch or suspicion.”

A number of Left Front leaders in Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts have publicly expressed displeasure over the “random” raids carried out by the police after the KLO militants attacked the CPM office in Dhupguri and gunned down five partymen on August 17.

Many villagers in Kumargram said they were picked up in the middle of the night and beaten up by the policemen who accused them of harbouring the militants.

While the BJP and the Trinamul Congress threatened to take to the streets in protest against the “harassment of innocent public”, the Kamtapur People’s Party accused the police of torturing its supporters even though it had “nothing to do with the militant organisations”.

Sources said the Left Front leaders had expressed apprehension that villagers would be alienated if the police harassment did not stop immediately.

“A fair amount of restraint and caution is necessary while tracking down militants belonging to outfits like the KLO,” inspector-general of police (north) Bhupinder Singh said.

“Though it’s a bit difficult to distinguish between a militant and a KLO sympathiser, we should act on specific information and depend on intelligence,” Singh added.

Nearly 400 villagers suspected of harbouring or sympathising with the militants have been arrested or detained since the Dhupguri strike.

KPP chief Atul Roy said many party activists arrested on flimsy charges were languishing in jails in the districts of north Bengal. The KPP threatened to take the issue to the human rights commission if the government did not restrain the police.

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