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Undeclared freeze on tough law

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By BISWAJIT ROY
  • Published 13.07.11
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Calcutta, July 12: Mamata Banerjee has told police officials not to make arrests under a stringent central law if Maoists eschew violence, government sources said.

Mamata’s decision not to use the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act came after her meeting with civil rights activists who have been entrusted with reviewing the cases of political prisoners and talking to the rebels, the sources said.

She is reluctant to make the decision public because she wants to use it as a bargaining chip with the rebels and their sympathisers, the sources added.

“Mamata has conveyed her inclination not to use the UAPA freshly and be lenient to those already booked under the central law during the Left Front rule. But much depends on the response of the Maoists and the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA),’’ a minister said.

According to rights groups, at least 90 people in the state have been booked under the central law, including Maoist leader Sushil Roy and PCPA leaders Chhatradhar Mahato and Sukhshanti Baske. The UAPA has more stringent provisions than other penal laws and allows for detention without a chargesheet for 180 days.

At her rallies in West Midnapore today, Mamata was silent on Maoist demands to withdraw central security forces from Jungle Mahal and to release all political prisoners.

Instead, she asked the rebels to shun guns. She also promised a rehabilitation package for those who surrendered and called for talks without naming the rebels. But she asked the people not to be intimidated by those trying to disrupt distribution of subsidised foodgrains and development initiatives.

The civil rights activists justified Mamata’s silence on the Maoist demands, describing the issues as “complex and conditional”.

But organisations like the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) criticised Mamata for skipping “major issues” and talked of their “apprehension” about her decision to recruit 10,000 special police constables.

“This sounds like a move to ape the Chhattisgarh government’s appointment of anti-Maoist special police officers aimed at dividing tribals there. The apex court had already called this exercise unconstitutional,’’ the APDR said.

According to the government sources, talks have already been initiated with “stakeholders in the peace process in Jungle Mahal” and the “vibes have been positive”.

The civil rights activists who are to review the cases of political prisoners will visit jails next week to meet Maoist and PCPA leaders.

But release of Chhatradhar, who had irked the Trinamul leadership by contesting the Assembly polls as an Independent in Jhargram, would depend on his “attitude to the new government and Trinamul”, the sources said.

Asokejivan Ghosh, a Chhatradhar aide and a leader of the Forum Against Terror, Corruption and Imperialism, accused Mamata of trying to replicate the CPM’s one-party rule. “There can be no talks without the release of our leaders,’’ he said.