In a bid to evade scrutiny, Naxals in Jharkhand are forcing elderly people to exchange their unaccounted money after demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. In Latehar district, one of the most Naxal-affected areas in Jharkhand, the left-wing extremists, who have extorted crores of rupees by levying “tax” and through ransom, are forcing elderly people to deposit the cash into their accounts, using the cap of Rs 2.5 lakh deposit in one go.
“It is correct. We have received information that Naxals are using villagers to deposit their extortion money into bank accounts so that it can be converted into legal currency. Not only elderly people, but young people could also be involved in the practice,” Latehar Superintendent of Police (SP) Anoop Birtharay told reporters.
Birtharay said that for the last two days, police have been conducting searches in several places to nab those involved in the illegal practice. “We suspect that some locals, who could be Naxal sympathisers providing logistical support to Naxals, are behind it,” the SP said. Birtharay said police are keeping a close vigil and conducting raids upon receiving tip-offs to nab those involved in the practice. Vehicle checking is also being conducted.
“We got information that some Naxals from Bihar were scheduled to hold a meeting with their Jharkhand counterparts here but panicked upon learning that police have been conducting raids to nab them,” he said.
A local resident said on condition of anonymity that some elderly people of Matlong village are visiting banks in Latehar district headquarters carrying lakhs of rupees to deposit into their account so that they could help Naxals convert their ill-gotten money. “A few days ago, an elderly woman who was unable to even recognise notes correctly, went to a state-run bank to deposit Rs 4.5 lakh in her Jan Dhan account. She, however, went back without depositing the money, saying she was asked to show PAN card which she did not have,” he said.
Another villager said in some cases, some Naxal sympathisers are depositing the money willingly after deducting their “share” which ranges from 10 per cent to 30 per cent but in other cases, many elderly people are forced to comply with the Naxals’ instructions. “Naxals are frustrated with the government’s move demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. They are threatening locals to deposit their money ino banks so that the cash do not become defunct,” the villager said.
Inspector General of CRPF (Jharkhand) Sanjay A Lathkar said they too have received some information that Naxals were trying to convert their money in the area. “Some people have been arrested with old notes. We are keeping a close watch on Naxals’ movement in the state and would foil any attempt by them to convert money. The state police is also looking after these inputs,” he said.
Recently, the CRPF recovered Rs 25 lakh from two suspects of People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a breakaway faction of CPI (Maoist) and one of Jharkhand’s several dominant extremist outfits, in Bodo area. The two arrested suspects are said to have links to PLFI supremo Dinesh, a CRPF official said.
Security agencies suspect that the seized cash could be part of funds used for Naxalite activities. Naxas have amassed nearly Rs 1,500 crore organised extortion business in the form of “levy”, police and central security officials said. Many splinter groups are said to be indulged in “levy” collection besides carrying out kidnapping, looting and narcotics trade, they said.