The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha pushes for Naxalite-free polls

Calcutta, April 10: The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government today discussed, in the wake of Wednesday’s carnage in Jharkhand, strategies to ensure that People’s War does not hinder the Lok Sabha polls in the Naxalite-afflicted districts of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore.

The April 7 Naxalite attack at Baliba in West Singhbhum district had left 27 police personnel dead.

Chief secretary Asok Gupta, home secretary Amit Kiran Deb, director-general of police Shyamal Dutta, additional director-general of the intelligence branch, Sujit Sarkar, inspector-general of state police (law and order) Chayan Mukherjee and the police superintendents and district magistrates of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore, met at Writers’ Buildings to discuss the special measures to be taken in the state.

“Obviously, security should be tightened. Police are on the alert. The meeting today was mostly to review the existing situation…,” Gupta said. He, however, ruled out the possibility of sealing the state’s border with Jharkhand now.

“Sealing the border involves discussion with the other state concerned. However, it will be done if felt necessary, but no such thing is being done now,” said the chief secretary.

Home secretary Amit Kiran Deb said later tonight that a joint action is on the agenda for nabbing extremists active in Bengal and Jharkhand. “We are in constant touch with the Jharkhand government on how to line up a joint action against the extremists.”

Mukherjee reiterated the government’s resolve. “We want peaceful elections in the state and the decisions taken today are to ensure that,” he said.

However, he refused to divulge the nature of the measures “for obvious security reasons”. Mukherjee said: “We discussed all the issues and the measures would be in place before and on the day of elections.”

Asked if the two states would get into joint action soon, he inspector-general said: “The issue of a joint action is being discussed....”

The inspector-general said the government is fully aware that the militants might set traps for the police and then get into the attack. “We are aware of all these possibilities and all the possible angles have been discussed,” he said.

The poll panel has already instructed political parties to inform the police before going out for campaigns — for keeping the police on the alert so that they can take adequate security measures. He said the state government had been given a green signal from the Centre for getting 15,000 rifles, including some of .303 and the others of 7.62 make (the latter is semi-automatic).

Central forces to be deployed for the polls will come very soon. However, it would be decided later how the 150 companies of central paramilitary forces would be deployed.

In the absence of adequate central forces, the state government is discussing the possibility of bringing in forces from its neighbouring states, including Jharkhand, for the polls.

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