India: Blogger Journalist Mediates Cop's Release

In the Indian State of West Bengal there is a battle raging on between the Maoist guerrillas (Naxalites) and the national and paramilitary forces. Last June the government of India banned the the Communist Party of India (Maoist), an underground and non-parliamentary political party, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act naming it a terrorist organization.

Aradhana Jhunjhunwala at OpenIndia explains the background of the conflict.

On the 20th of October dozens of Maoists attacked the Sankrail police station in West Midnapore district and took away all the 10 guns and the ammunition from the depot. Two policemen were killed and they kidnapped the officer in charge police inspector Atindranath Dutta.

India under attack and other musings!! describes the circumstances in which the attackers were successful:

There were 13 constables, 5 home guards, 3 national volunteer force members and 3 sub-inspectors at the police station when the Maoists struck. Not one policeman was armed. For, the practice here is to keep the weapons locked in trunks. [..]

Why? Policemen say one reason is the weapons are no match to those used by the Naxals — so keeping them locked up is “safer.”

The Maoists held the police officer hostage and demanded a swap, with the release of 14 tribal women, who were arrested by the police suspected as Maoists.

Sans Serif reports that yesterday two BBC journalists including blogger Subir Bhowmik “helped broker a compromise between the State government and Maoists, leading to the safe release” of Mr. Dutta. The move followed a court order to release the 14 tribal women on bail.

According to a report in The Times of India, the BBC journos stepped in and acted as “facilitators and served as a bridge between the rebels and the government” when the leader of the Maoists Koteshwara Rao alias Kishenji, refused to deal directly with State officials.

The blogger compared this incident with other incidents where journalists in the line of duty played a part in unfolding news events.

Dr. Ujjal K. Pal reminds us:

The abduction episode ended with a happy note.

However, in glaring contrast, two other cops Kanchan Garai and Sabir Ali of West Bengal Police, kidnapped three months back are not as lucky as Sankrail OC . No body knows where they are or if they are alive at all. Perhaps administration is not that eager to trace them.

Nirmalya Nag from Kolkata strikes the core of the problem:

Thank you government for blindly allowing the police to arrest anyone as Maoist and letting the policemen eke out their meager security, thank you opposition for not condemning murders by Maoists, thank you human rights activists for condemning the proposed crackdown on Maoists but keeping mum when people get killed by them.

Now let us wait for the next abduction.

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