Extremists gaining ground in Bengal’s Dooars region

Posted on August 9, 2010

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chicken neck

SILIGURI: The nationwide attention towards Maoist activities is missing in one critical geographical area. This is the Dooars region in North Bengal. A fluid political situation — with many separatist movements, a shattered socio-economic condition, near-zero government attention — has already made the forest-clad and tea-dependent hilly region a fertile ground for Maoists’ consolidation.

With Nepal in the northwest and Bangladesh in the southeast, Dooars has always remained a major corridor for extremists between Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan across the ‘chicken neck’ that connects the entire northeastern region with the rest of the country.

The Indo-Bhutan and Indo-Nepal borders are open while the one with Bangladesh is “to some extent porous”, said former BSF DG A K Mitra.

“Despite the best efforts, BSF cannot totally stop infiltration of people, explosives, arms or narcotics,” Mr Mitra had said earlier. It is almost the same with Nepal and Bhutan too as accepted by many senior officials from Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) that looks after these two borders.

The arrest of top Maoist leaders like Mohan Vaidya, and Ulfa and KLO volunteers over the past couple of years, seizure of a huge cache of arms, the meeting of top Maoist leaders or Maoist posters in North Bengal University campus, all point towards the increasing presence of the Maoists in the area, especially the tea gardens.

The flux in tea economy has triggered a slide in the lifestyle of the less-educated and simple-minded tea workers. “Benefits of former Union commerce minister Jairam Ramesh’s Special Purpose Tea Fund hardly reached them,” complained S Roy, a veteran tea trade union leader.

“The poor socio-economy is giving the extremists a better opportunity to consolidate among these tea workers,” said security experts. “These have already been reported. But the state government seems to be concerned with political issues to spare an eye for this crisis,” said a police official.

9 Aug 2010, 0601 hrs IST, Debasis Sarkar,ET Bureau

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Posted in: West Bengal