Central police forces deployed in West Bengal could be asked to disarm armed camps affiliated to political parties by invoking powers under the Arms Act, a senior government official said on Wednesday.
The official's remarks came ahead of the meeting between West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and home minister P Chidambaram next week to discuss the continuation of armed camps, particularly those linked to the ruling CPM.
As reported by HT, the home ministry had quietly empowered paramilitary forces to operate independently in hotspots of violence, giving them powers to raid, search and arrest armed insurgents.
The official said central paramilitary forces such as the CRPF had not utilised the new powers to independently seize illegal arms so far. One reason that this power hasn't been used is due to concern of the impact that it would have on the working relation between the central and state forces.
But if West Bengal refuses to act, the central forces would have to use this option ahead of the assembly elections slated for April-May.
This, however, would not be a problem once the state moves into election mode when the election commission — and not the state government — would have the last word.
Last week, home minister P Chidambaram had said that he was “absolutely confident” that peaceful elections would be held in West Bengal, notwithstanding the ongoing political violence. Nearly 200 lives have been lost over the last one year in clashes between supporters of the Trinamool Congress and CPM.
Lalgarh firing report
The investigation report submitted by SP Paschim Medinipur Manoj Verma before the Calcutta HC on January 11 has put the CPM in the dock by squarely blaming it for operating armed camps in collusion with the miscreants at Netai village in Lalgarh and killing the villagers on January 7.
The report has corroborated what union home minister P Chidambaram alleged in his December 22 letter to CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
(With inputs from Kolkata)