Rift Valley fever grips Kenya

By Rajendra Mohanty
Published: Thursday 15 February 2007

-- (Credit: RUPESH YADAV)the police in Keshkal, in Chattisgarh's Bastar district, has opened a can of worms after releasing 19 surrendered naxalites, on January 11, after declaring that no cases are registered against them. Earlier, on January 3 in Raipur, 79 alleged naxalites surrendered in the presence of chief minister Raman Singh. The episode is now under scrutiny.

Both the opposition and Keshkal mla, Mahesh Baghel of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp), had taken note of the issue on January 3 itself. Baghel, a parliamentary secretary in the government, declared all 79 people innocent, adding some were bjp members. He and Sohan Potai, Kanker bjp mp, met Singh on January 7 and spoke for the arrested. They want the police to be held to account.Baghel says that in the past he has had to intervene when the police have registered false cases against the villagers.

But home minister Ramvichar Netam defends the police, saying the protesters underestimate the trouble naxalites can cause. The chief minister is avoiding commenting on the issue.

The government has ordered an enquiry. It is caught between its own party leaders' version and and its police that is fighting naxalites in nine out of 16 districts. The protesting party leaders are tribals, and the government does not want to be seen in a bad position among tribals.

The government's discomfort in dealing with the issue can be gauged from the fact that strict guidelines were issued to party members to not raise the matter in the meeting of the Bastar Development Authority in the second week of January. They were allowed to discuss the issue with the chief minister individually after the meeting.

The chief minister's declaration of an enquiry into the matter by Bastar's inspector-general (ig) of police has also been seen as the government's 'please-all' policy. Doubts have been raised at an enquiry by the policeman who was responsible for arresting the 79 villagers.

Rajendra Kumar Vij, the inspector-general, said he was yet toget details of the cases filed against thepeople who were surrendered before the chief minister."I am collecting data as tocases were registered againsteach of these people for which kindofoffence and whenwarrants were issued" he said. He did not give any deadline for the report.

On therelease of 20 'surrendered people' from Kankerpolice station soon after the protest, Vij saidmostof these people had no ideaabout the cases filed against them by the police for their involvement/support to the naxals. Besides, police had no sufficient evidence to prove themguilty in the court of law.

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