Bengal's neighbouring Maoist-affected states have raised objections against Mamata Banerjee's soft line towards the rebels, alleging her suspension of anti-Maoist operations have turned Bengal into a safe haven for the ultras, on the run from the adjacent states.
Top cops of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa have already raised the issue with the Union home ministry that is coordinating nationwide crackdown on the rebels. The point was also raised in a meeting of all director generals of police (DGP) in New Delhi presided over by home minister P Chidambaram last month.
"Bengal has stopped joint operations against the rebels. But there used to be coordinated action against the Maoists, according to which we went to Bengal and Bengal personnel joined us in Jharkhand. This has stopped and it is hampering the operations," G S Rath, DGP Jharkhand told HT on Wednesday.
Concurred Orissa DGP Manmohan Praharaj. "In Orissa there are no peace talks as is being pursued in Bengal. We have also not stopped operations of joint security forces. Now, we have to work overtime against armed Maoists activities," said Praharaj.
Anti-Maoist operations in Bengal has come to a halt with the chief minister mandating six civil society members to try and initiate dialogue with the rebels. She has also decided to release 78 political prisoners in the state, among which feature several prominent Maoist leaders including state secretaries of CPI(Maoist).
The Jharkhand DGP did not conceal his frustration when he said, "They (Bengal government) should seal the border and place security forces along it so that when we conduct operations, the rebels cannot flee. But they have not done that."
"It is a known fact that Maoists migrate to safer places after conducting operations. There is all possibility that after operations here they will migrate to Bengal, because it is a safer place," said Rath.
Interestingly, in 2009 and 2010 former Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee used to allege that it was difficult to tackle the Maoists effectively in his state as the rebels used to flee to Jharkhand when they faced the heat from the eastern side of the border from Bengal. Shibu Soren, the Jharkhand chief minister, was pursuing a soft line towards the rebels then.
The point was raised in a meeting in the capital where union home minister P Chidambaram addressed representatives of the Maoist-affected states to adopt a unified approach and emphasized better state level co-ordination. The top cops of Bengal's neighboring states raised the issue.
Senior cops in Bengal, too, are worried that the Maoists are fast regrouping the Bengal in the absence of any operations against them.
Intelligence officials point out that senior Maoists leaders are now trying to get shelter in the rebel dominated areas in the three districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. According to intelligence bureau inputs, leaders such as Koteshwar Rao alias Kishanji, state secretary Akash, state committee member Bikas apart from some leaders of Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh are also staying in Bengal.
"It is a war-like situation in Jharkhand and Chattisgarh where rebels are striking regularly. Then they simply cross over to Bengal. This is frustrating for the forces here," said a senior police official from Jharkhand.