HM firmly asks Buddhadeb to end political violence

New Delhi: In a blunt message to West Bengal government to stop unabated political violence,Home Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday told Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee that armed cadres of parties cannot be allowed to take law into their hands and must be reined in.

Bhattacharjee, after a 45-minute meeting with Chidambaran following a `letter war`, said his government would take steps to disarm all armed group in the state but asked Chidambaram to tell UPA ally and CPI(M)`s arch rival Trinamool Congress "in no uncertain terms" that they must end their "open and direct support" to the Maoists.

"…Maintenance of law and order is the responsibility of the security forces and armed cadres of any political party cannot be allowed to play any part in the discharge of this responsibility," Chidambaram told the Chief Minister who met him at his North Block office here.

The meeting took place weeks after the Home Minister and the Chief Minister exchanged strongly worded letters on the prevailing law and order situation in the state which is due to go to polls later this year.

The Home Minister shared with the Chief Minister information and intelligence available with the central government and drew his attention to the Netai incident in which seven persons were killed allegedly by armed CPI(M) cadres on January 7.

"The Chief Minister assured the Home Minister that he understood the seriousness of the concern expressed by the Home Minister and would take appropriate steps," a Home Ministry spokesman said.

Later at a press conference, Bhattacharjee said that besides taking steps to disarm all armed groups, "I agreed with the Home Minister that the recent incident in Netai village was very unfortunate. We will ensure that such incidents do not recur".

At the same time, he attacked the Trinamool, accusing it of "openly and directly" associating with the Maoists.

"I told the Home Minister that he should tell them (Trinamool Congress) in no uncertain terms that they must dissociate from the Maoists," he said.

The Chief Minister said while earlier the Trinamool Congress were having "secret contacts" with Maoists and giving them "covert support", now all that is in the open.

"They are openly and directly associating with Maoists to foment trouble there. We have confirmed it from different sources, including those (Maoists leaders) who have been arrested," he alleged.

Bhattacharjee claimed Trinamool Congress and Maoists and their front organisations were holding joint public meetings including two in the recent past and that some Trinamool leaders were also "caught recently escorting Maoists", injured in encounters with joint forces, for medical treatment in Orissa.

In his letter to Bhattacharjee last month, Chidambaram had asked him to take immediate action to stop the violence, saying it pointed to a "virtual collapse" of law and order in West Bengal.

In the letter dated December 22, 2010, Chidambaram questioned West Bengal government on its use of central forces in the state, saying the killing of activists of political parties was going on unabated.

The Home Minister had also asked the state government to ensure that the armed cadres belonging to `harmad vahini` (looters and pirates) are "immediately disarmed and demobilised".

Chidambaram`s letter to Bhattacharjee came after Trinamool chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged misuse of central security forces in the state and offered to quit if her charge was proved wrong.

Bhattacharjee and CPI-M hit back at the Home Minister, accusing him of being "partisan" with a motive to "please" Trinamool Congress and serve its "political interests". He also objected to Chidambaram`s use of the word `harmad` saying it was a "nasty" word.

Later, in another letter Chidambaram invited Bhattacharjee to New Delhi for a frank discuss on this "extremely sensitive" issue and agree upon the way forward.

Bhattacharjee today said, "Our major concern is the alleged support — overt and covert — extended by the main opposition Trinamool Congreess to the Maoists for political gains." He said the Trinamool has been criticising anti-Maoist police actions and demanding withdrawal of joint forces.

"Some Trinamool leaders have organised open meetings with PCPA (Maoist frontal outfit) members. Statements of important (Maoist) arrestees indicate some joint programmes with TMC which the Union Home Ministry has been apprised of in detail," the Chief Minister said.

Regarding the alleged existence of armed CPI(M) camps in some areas, he said "thousands of CPI(M) workers and their families were evicted by Maoists from their hearths and homes.

Now they have gone back" and indicated that the local arms with them were meant for their own safety.

Submitting a 14-page document to the Home Minister, Bhattacharjee pointed out that as many as 885 cases relating to Maoist violence had been registered in the three affected districts over the past two years.

In a bid to counter the Chief Minister`s assertions, the Trinamool Congress leaders, including MPs and MLAs, today staged a dharna in Delhi to oppose alleged "excesses" by joint security forces and demanding their withdrawal from West Bengal.

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