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NEW DEHLI: The Police yesterday [July 12] arrested 72 “wanted persons” in dawn raids on 10 villages in West Bengal district of Naxalbari, scene of anti-landlord uprisings in the past two months.

West Bengal’s Inspector-General of Police Upananda Mukherjee alleged that the police had seized a loudspeaker, a large number of bows and arrows and spears. He said there was little resistance and the heavily armed police used practically no force. In many cases the Police waded knee-deep through water and mud from monsoon rains now deluging the area. One of the houses searched belonged to one of the “Big four” among the extremist leaders. A ring leader whose “Communist card” was found in the house was believed to have escaped across nearby jute fields. A strong cordon has been placed along the border to prevent escapes.

The Police Officer directing the operations said they could “crush” the uprising within five hours if the administration were prepared for “some bloodshed” and gave them a free hand to deal with the situation. The leaders, 16 of whom are “underground” are to be allowed time to surrender. If they do not give up the fight within a week the Provincial administration in Calcutta will review the situation and give the Police further instructions.

Growing turmoil in India’s main industrial state, West Bengal, is causing Mrs Indira Gandhi’s Government grave concern.

The peasant uprising at Naxalbari is in the narrowest part of the strategic corridor between Nepal and East Pakistan, which carries road and rail communications with the north-eastern border state of Assam and with Sikkim and Bhutan. All land supplies to the big troop concentrations have to go through this corridor, which also has the important pipeline bringing oil from the Assam oilfields to the Barauni refinery in Bihar.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2017