Police and intelligence units in Maoist insurgency-hit Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are keeping an eye on Jan Dhan bank accounts amid reports that left-wing extremists were forcing villagers in their strongholds to deposit money in them following the demonetisation of higher denomination notes.
In Jharkhand, the police have issued an appeal asking people not to allow Maoists to misuse their accounts to deposit extortion money. Their counterparts in Chhattisgarh have written to district magistrates (DMs) informing them of intelligence inputs that the rebels were shifting their money through proxies.
The Chhattisgarh police have asked district authorities to convene a meeting to take preventive measures. Authorities in places like Rajnandgaon have been given lists of villagers, who are allegedly in possession of the Maoist money, or have been used for depositing money in Jan Dhan accounts.
“Since the Maoists have significant amounts of cash in the form of dumps and hot cash with their cadres, they are desperate to convert and deposit this currency through various means,’’ Anti-Naxal Operations Special Director General DM Awasthi has said in his letter to DMs across Chhattisgarh. “Intelligence inputs indicate that the Maoists are pressurising their sympathisers/local industrialists/contractors/mine operators/dealers of forest produce/villagers and other such sources to convert their money into new denomination currencies.”
The letter has advised authorities to convene meetings and maintain strict surveillance on all “suspicious banking activity”. Authorities have been provided information about specific suspects whose bank accounts should be monitored.
A separate letter dated November 16 to all police superintendents says that the Maoists were using villagers they have confidence in to deposit their money in Jan Dhan accounts. “In some areas, businessmen and traders have been contacted….’’ The letter adds that people are being asked to change currency as well.
In Jharkhand, the police have echoed similar concerns and warned of prosecution if villagers allowed their bank accounts to be misused. “This (allowing Maoists to use one’s account) is completely illegal and the government is keeping special eye on such accounts. In future, the Naxals would use this money for illegal activities in which you would be held as accomplice,” said the appeal. It asked the villagers not to allow the Maoists to succeed and contribute towards making Jharkhand a developing and fearless state.
“We will be releasing the appeal as pamphlets across all the districts, besides putting it in the newspapers,” said Inspector General (Operations) M S Bhatia. He cited “enough intelligence” to suggest that Maoist organisations were trying the ploy. “Irrespective of whether they are successful or not, it is true that they are trying hard to get people to allow use of their accounts… We are keeping an eye.’’