In an apparent reaction to the joint operations against Maoists by central and state forces, the ultras in Bengal have cast their recruitment net wider, drawing into their ranks hundreds of teenagers in the three districts they dominate.
“These teenagers belong to very poor families and have been lured by the Maoists with the promise of money, food and shelter,” said a police officer who did not want to be named.
“About 500 teenagers have been trained by Maoists over the past few months in this district alone,” West Midnapore Superintendent of Police Manoj Verma told HT on Tuesday.
“It is easy to mould teenagers. Therefore, the rebels are targeting them. The Maoists have often been pushing teenagers into the frontlines of action. The boys are offered a monthly amount of Rs 2,500,” Verma said.
The Maoists have trained the teenagers to carry out guerrilla attacks, make landmines and handle firearms, including AK-47 assault rifles, the police said.
The police claimed to have obtained all this information after interrogating teenager Sushil Hembram, a suspected Maoist recruit and murder accused, who was nabbed with a gun in Bankura district on May 8.
The police said the training has been imparted in forested areas of the three Maoist-dominated districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.
While the Maoists have been training hundreds of teenagers since November 2009, the Left Front government is struggling to set up three police training schools in forested areas to produce Counter Insurgency Force (CIF) personnel to combat them.
Though the state government had decided in March to set up the schools and get the specialised anti-Maoist force Greyhounds from Andhra Pradesh to train the CIF personnel, no commitment has been secured from the Greyhounds.
(With inputs from HTC, Kolkata)