Midnapore: Raid by West Bengal police in relief camp and beating of reporters

February 2, 2011

By Partho Sarathi Ray

A drama of the absurd

Feb 4 2011

A drama of the absurd continues with the two arrested in Midnapore. Just after the two boys, aged 17 and 18 years, were arrested from the relief camp for internally displaced people from the heart of Midnapore town, the CPI(M) state secretary in Kolkata, Biman Bose, claimed that the two were involved in the attack on the EFR camp in Silda. It is not known how he got such specific information sitting hundred kilometres away from the site of the arrest. The SP of Midnapore, Manoj Verma, faithfully repeated this allegation. Based on this, the CPI(M) mouthpiece Ganashakti has started calling these relief camps “jallad shibir” (executioners camp) as a counterpoint to the harmad camps, which is the common term for the numerous dugouts of their armed cadres and hired thugs in jangalmahal.

However, it turns out that when the two were produced in court the next day, there was no mention of their complicity in the Silda attack in the FIR or in the chargesheet against them. The police admitted that there was no evidence to link them with the Silda attack. Surprisingly, the notorious CPI(M) minister from West Midnapore, Sushanta Ghosh reportedly claimed in a public meeting that the two were not involved in the Silda attack.

However, what the police has done in the past four days, is to make fantastic claims to the press to strengthen their case against the duo, try to promote them in the Maoist hierarchy and conducting a media trial of them. According to the police, and faithfully reproduced in the media, one of the two arrested boys, Amiya alias Lacchu was the personal courier of Kishenji, and the other a gun runner who got arms from the North-east. And in a most absurd claim, also emphasized in the chargesheet, the police has stated that their case rests on the purported discovery of some letters in the trouser pockets of the two, which they were carrying at the time of their arrest. Both of them apparently were habituated to carry letters from the top leadership of the Maoists in their pockets, including letters from Kishenji on organizational matters.

One of the letters was supposedly written from the Nari Ijjat bachao Samiti, the womens’ organization that have come up in jangalmahal after the Sonamukhi rapes, to Kabir Suman. The police has claimed that the letter is “from the womens’ wing of the Maoists to the MP Kabir Suman, seeking advice on organizational matters”. Turns out that the letter is the same as the one on Sanhati, which is for all to read, in which the organization has requested Kabir Suman to translate it and read it out to other MPs in the parliament. I hope the police doesn’t claim that the “womens’ wing of the Maoists” was asking for organizational help from all the MPs in parliament.

It also turns out the CPI(M) was highly discomfited that the claim of their leader Biman Bose of the involvement of the two arrested persons in the Silda attack could not be borne out by fact. Therefore, on 3rd February the police claimed that the two had admitted to their complicity in the attack under interrogation, and took them to Amiya’s village Kanyabali in Salboni, where he reportedly dug up an AK47, several rounds of ammunition, and gelatin sticks for them, from a bamboo grove outside the village. Manoj Verma claimed to the press in the evening that the butt of the rifle has EFR inscribed on one side and PLGA on the other and is therefore a direct proof that it was looted during the Silda attack. Therefore, the two have been further charged under the Arms Act, and complicity in the Silda attack, much to the satisfaction of the CPI(M).

However, when Amit and Amiya were again produced in court yesterday, they shouted out that the police were framing them up by planting evidence, but the judge did not pay any attention to them.

The treatment of the two arrested boys, and the contortions of the police in trying to prove their claims against them, is a telling story of how the police in West Bengal builds up cases against people whom they accuse of Maoist links. Planting of fabricated evidence, as also seen in the case of Dr. Binayak Sen in Chattisgarh, seems to be a favourite operational procedure of the police all over India to build and bolster cases which are prima facie unsustainable. And our judiciary generally maintains a blind eye towards that.

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First reports

Feb 1, 2011

In an unprecedented move, on 31st January Midnapore police raided one of the relief camps in Midnapore town housing hundreds of people who have fled their villages in the Lalgarh-Salboni-Binpur area because of the rampages of the harmads and the joint state and central forces. These camps are running for the past six months, increasingly under the auspices of the Trinamul Congress, and have housed villagers who had to flee their villages because of atrocities and threats by CPI(M) harmads.The police claimed that they raided the camp to arrest Maoist squad members who were sheltering there. The police were also accompanied by armed personnel in olive green fatigues, although the CRPF have denied that they participated in the raid.

The police picked up two people – Asim Mahato, from Lakshmanpur village and Amiya Mahato from Kanyabali village, both from the Salboni block. They have been staying in the camp set up the Rajiv Gandhi Pura Bhavan of the Midnapore Municipal Corporation for the last five months. When news of the raid spread, local TMC leaders, together with SUCI and Congress activists assembled at the spot to protest against the police raid. They also protested the fact that the police party did not have any women members although there were many women staying at the relief camp. While this altercation was going on, a senior level official, the DSP operations appeared and ordered that the camp be searched. After some more heated exchanges the police went in to search the camp and seized two bags belonging to the arrested persons.

The press had assembled by this time and while the police were taking out the bags, the activists and members of the press demanded that the police open the bags and exhibit their contents and make a seizure list which they would sign as witnesses (these are legal operating procedures, and people have become more aware of this in recent days after knowing about the Binayak Sen case where incriminating material was planted in the seized material by the police). At this point of time the police suddenly lathicharged the assembled people, including the journalists. There were unprecedented scenes of the police chasing and brutally beating up journalists through the lanes of Midnapore town. Fourteen members of the public, and seven journalists from Star Ananda, Channel Ten, CNN-IBN, Bartaman, Doordarshan etc. were injured and had to be hospitalized. The Channel Ten reporter Mustak has been critically injured and was shifted to Kolkata.

In the evening the notorious Midnapore SP Manoj Verma claimed that the two arrested persons were Maoist squad members close to Kishanji and involved in the Silda EFR camp attack. However, by 1st February evening his version had taken a 180 degrees turn and he said that there was no evidence linking them with the Silda attack. The CPI(M) has been crowing about the incident as “evidence” of Trinamul-Maoist link. It is being widely believed in Midnapore town that the arrests were staged to deflect attention and public anger from the Netai massacre.