Even as Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa are wondering how to counter the growing Naxalite strength, the state police’s desperation is showing in more ways than one.
While struggling for a breakthrough in the ambush and killing of 16 policemen in Dhanora in Gadchiroli district in May, the police are yet to nail those involved in a similar attack in Markegaon village in February.
Last week, 36 accused who were charged with murdering 15 policemen in Markegaon — about 60 km from Gadchiroli — were granted bail.
But the state police immediately re-arrested 15 of them and charged them with attempt to murder. “We have arrested them in a case of firing in Bandur village, days after the Markegaon incident,” said a police officer investigating the case requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The accused have applied for bail. “The hearing may be on June 9 or 10,” said advocate Ravindra Donarkar, who is appearing for the accused.
The state government is concerned over inputs that the Chhattisgarh-based Naxalite outfit, the Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee, plans to establish a stronger presence by taking over the territory of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Maharashtra.
Monday’s meeting of government representatives of Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa was to chalk out a plan to counter the movements of Left extremists in Gadchiroli and other tribal belts of Maharashtra.
However, the Markegaon case is a classic example of the state police’s inability to crack the whip on Naxalite violence.
Tribals have been alleging that the police pick up innocent villagers, implicate them in these cases and ensure they do not get bail.
This is a pattern, said Donarkar. “If the accused get bail in one case they are arrested in another. The idea is to keep them behind bars for as long as possible,” he added.
The police, however, claim they have enough evidence against the accused.
On May 24, Hindustan Times had reported about rice farmer Rohidas Shimpi (27) being in police custody since February. He was one of the 15 arrested again last week.
But his family has been claiming he is innocent and was not present in the village when the incident took place.
Eighteen of the accused belong to Markegaon, Shimpi’s village.