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Maoist menace spreads to urban areas

Maoist menace spreads to urban areas

Author: Mateen Hafeez
Publication: The Times of India
Date: February 17, 2008
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Maoist_menace_spreads_to_urban_areas_/articleshow/2788490.cms

The Maoist menace is no longer confined to the jungles. Last year, India's financial capital got a Naxal scare. With the arrest of a few activists in August, the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) of Maharashtra police claimed to have busted a Maoist think tank, which was trying to indoctrinate and recruit people, and collecting funds for the organisation.

Police believe that the Maoists are slowly and quietly making a base in the city. The police also suspect that the rebels might have some dangerous plans for the city. These fears stem from the fact that during the arrests of the suspected Maoists last year, the police recovered some detonators, a hand grenade, two firearms and 20 gelatin sticks.

According to police sources, Maoists have also articulated a new strategy to target urban centres in India, drawing up "guidelines for working in towns and cities", and for the revival of a mobilisation effort targeting students and the urban unemployed. In 2006, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil told the Lok Sabha that Maoists were planning to target important installations in major cities, including Mumbai.

But, there is no immediate threat. "There is no armed activity in Mumbai at the moment and the Maoists have kept their activities limited to propagating their ideology, setting up secret cells for frontal organisations and recruiting people,'' says a police sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The Maoists are trying to spread their movement among trade and labour unions, poor people and students.

According to police sources, there are some 75 Maoists in Mumbai. Most of them are not active members of the banned CPI (Maoist), but they sympathise with the leftist group's cause. "We have come across several such people and are in the process of identifying them and preparing dossiers on them," says an officer involved in the investigation.

The police believe that the Maoists come to Mumbai to regroup. "They are using Mumbai as a place of rest, planning and recruitment. The guerrillas who get injured in encounters with the police are sent to Naxal dens in Mumbai for treatment, education and relaxation," says the officer.

Apprehending a major problem cropping up sometime soon, the ATS is getting inputs from the Special Branch and the State Intelligence Department (SID) about the Maoists and keeping an eye on some people. "Over half a dozen lawyers are on our radar but we cannot arrest them if there is no evidence against them," says an ATS officer.

While Mumbai may be safe for the moment, sources claim that the Maoists definitely have plans to take their war to other urban centres. The rebels, the sources add, have plans to strike in the industrial belts of Bhilai-Ranchi-Dhanbad-Calcutta and Mumbai-Pune-Surat-Ahmedabad to take their battle into the heart of India.

- mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com

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