The elite anti-Maoist force CoBRA, raised by the Centre, has been withdrawn from West Bengal, apparently in the wake of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s push for peace talks with the rebels.
Nearly 400 Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) personnel who operated in the state have been sent to Jharkhand.
What’s more, the Central Reserve Police Force has been rendered idle because of a virtual embargo on raids and night patrols to create a conducive atmosphere for the peace talks.
“CoBRA commandos are a specialised force and cannot be left sitting in their barracks. For the past few months they have been rendered inactive in Bengal,” said a home ministry official from New Delhi on condition of anonymity.
A police officer said, “Since the state government is trying to create an atmosphere for peace talks, there is no need for the CoBRA commandos here. If needed, they can be called back.”
Only a handful of CoBRA personnel have been retained in West Midnapore district.
Central paramilitary forces were sent to Lalgarh in June 2009, to counter the rebels. CoBRA personnel were placed in the jungle areas of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts.
The withdrawal of CoBRA forces has happened even as reports of Maoists regaining lost ground have surfaced.
Union home minister P Chidambaram said in New Delhi on Wednesday, “There are reports that the CPI(Maoist) and the PCPA (People’s Committee against Police Atrocities) may be regrouping in Jangalmahal area. We have shared these reports with the West Bengal government and (have) asked them to be on alert.”
(With inputs from agencies)