News Wrap


Claiming that bank Fraud accused Nirav Modi had acquired their plots at prices below the market value, farmers have ‘‘reclaimed’’ 125 acres in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district. In the third week of March 2018, a group of over 200 farmers, who arrived in bullock carts at Khandala in Karjat ‘‘tehsil’’ symbolically reoccupied the land, ploughing a part of it using a tractor. Cultivation on the entire tract has started. The plots had been acquired on behalf of Nirav Modi’s Firestar company, a few years ago. The land is among properties attacked by the union government of India’s Enforcement Directorate, as part of a probe against Nirav Modi, who has fled India. The protesting farmers carry the national tricolour, portraits of Shivaji and B R Amhedkar, and a banner of the Kaali Aai Mukti Sangram, a farmers’s organisation. Earlier the land was acquired from the farmers for around Rs 15,000 per acre, whereas the government rate for land compensation in the area, is around Rs 20 lac per acre now.

Insufficient Material
On 15 March 2018, because the prosecution failed to place sufficient material to establish charges, a special Central Bureau of Investigations Court in Chennai, discharged former union minister of telecommunications Dayanidhi Maran, his brother and chairman of the Sun group Kalanithi Maran, and five others from all charges. When D Maran was the telecom minister in 2006-07, 323 high speed BSNL ISDN telephone lines were found installed in his Boat Club Road residence in Chennai of January 2007, and another 400-odd lines in  his Gopalapuram residence. Also functioning from Maran’s Chennai home, were two other lines in the name of the chief general manager of Chennai Telephones. Outside the Chennai telephone system, all these telephones were given separate serial numbers, which meant they were beyond billing and accounting. The DMK was then the ruling party of Tamil Nadu. The 323 high speed lines were linked by underground cable with the Sun TV network, which then functioned from Anna Arivalyam, headquarters of the DMK. 10 post-paid middle connections, nine with vanity numbers, were also given to Sun TV under service category, with no bills raised. The CBI had estimated that at the prevailing rate of 70 paise per pulse, the 323 ISDN lines for the period they were in service, would have cost the BSNL about Rs 450 crore. Installation charges paid by BSNL was nearly Rs 1.72 crore. The CBI found there was huge data transfer to Sun television network free of cost. A Chennai-based English daily in June 2011 exposed the fraud. The Supreme Court had ordered the CBI to register an FIR in the misuse of Chennai telephones, by the Maran brothers, who are grand nephews of DMK patriarch, M Karunanidhi. The CBI officer who investigated the case has chastised by his superiors, and his Chennai team was transferred to New Delhi.

Maoists Retaliate
As Maoists blew up a mine-protected vehicle in Chattisgarh’s Sukma district on 13 March 2018, nine CRPF jawans were killed and two injured. The attack occurred days after the killing of ten ultras by Greyhound personnel on the Telengana-Chattisgarh border. Triggered by an IED, the blast occurred about 80 km west from the spot where 12 CRPF men were killed in an ambush by Maoists on 11 March 2017. The powerful IED ripped apart the armoured vehicle and hurled it in the air. Bodies were flung in all directions, and some bodies were found 20 to 30 feet away, in the Kistaram area of Sukma. Personnel travelling in the vehicle were returning from leave to their camp in Palodi, the forward most camp in the Kistaram axis, which is considered an area where Maoists have almost complete control, and is cut off from the rest of the state. Maoist movement was reported in the Kistaram axis on 13 March 2018 morning, when Naxals and the CRPF’s Cobra 208 battalion exchanged fire at around 8 am. Then at 12.30 pm the Maoists targeted on MPV between Kistaram and Palodi. The IED that caused the blasts had more than 20 kgs of explosives. Earlier the Maoists had targeted an anti-landmine vehicle in April 2015, in which five STF jawans were killed, and seven injured in the Kirandul area of Dantewada. Sukma is perhaps the most violent left-wing extremism-hit district in India. Within its boundaries, Kistaram is the most sensitive of zones. There is very little access by road from Chattisgarh, and rations are primarily supplied to Chattisgarh police camp, STF and DRG jawans, and a CPRF camp, through choppers. Palodi, 5.5 kms from Kistaram, is the last camp in that forward area, which was opened on 26 November 2017.

The area of Kistaram bordering Telengana is important for movement of the top Maoist leadership of the Dandakaranya special zone committee of the CPI (Maoist), which included members from Telengana, Andhra, Orisha and Chattisgarh. It is also the primary operational area of the PLGA battalion number 1, with dreaded Maoist commander Hidmaat at the helm, and deputy commanders Sonu and Situ. The attack of 13 March 2018, was in response to forces entering remote areas. There have been encounters in Tondamarka, Salatong and Palodi. Sukma district has been witnessing heavy casualties since 2009. Maoist attacks inflict heavy casualties on the security every summer, as the deadliest attacks in Taadmetla and Jheeron. The CPRF have lost 46 men in three major Maoist ambushes in Chattisgarh, since 11 March 2017. State police forces like Telengana and Chattisgarh have the best in class surveillance facilities. Apart from the states, central agencies empowered under Indian Telegraph Act to conduct surveillance include IB, NIA, DRI, ED, IT, NCB, CBI and NTRO. CRPF has asked the government to give it ‘‘technical surveillance’’ powers, so independent real time intelligence can be collected for counter-insurgency operations.

There are increased Maoist activities in various parts of Bijapur district of South Chattisgarh. On 09 April 2018, Maoists triggered an Improvised Explosives Device blast near Tumla village, on Kuturu Road of Bijapur, targeting a bus in which some District Reserve Guard (Chattisgarh police’s special anti-Maoist unit) jawans were travelling. Two security force personnel, including a head constable and driver of the bus were killed in this blast. In a separate incident, the Maoist triggered two disparate IED blasts, in Mahadev Ghat area of Bijapur, when a team of the CRPF was carrying out a search operation in the area.

Nepal’s Left and Bejing
Beijing has herself denied rumours that China brokered the pact between the long-time communist foes, Marxist and Maoist politicians in Nepal. K P Sharma Oli, the Marxist leader and Nepal’s new prime minister has announced the revival of a Chinese dam project that had earlier been suspended under pressure from India. Oli has expressed enthusiasm for the extension of a railway from Tibet into Nepal. In Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, where the palace and shrines were badly damaged by the 2015 earthquake, there is an arch topped with the Chinese flag and lined with posters publicising a Beijing-funded restoration project. From hydropower to construction, Chinese businesses are moving into Nepal. The new training academy of the Nepal Armed Police Force, is a $350 million (£253 million) gift from China. Nepal is another convert to the grand ‘‘New Silk Route’’ infrastructure project of Xi Jinping, to connect China by land and sea, via Asia to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

Vol. 50, No.49, June 10 - 16, 2018