April 29, 2014 1:56:32 am
The over-400-strong Anti-Naxal Force (ANF) of Karnataka Police have suspended night patrolling and combing in forests of Western Ghats following the arrest of an ANF constable for killing a 23-year-old Muslim youth mistaking him to be a Naxalite in the early hours of April 19, ANF sources said.
Karnataka Home Minister K J George and head of Internal Security Division Amar Kumar Pandey, however, denied any halt in activities of ANF in the forested hills of Chikamagalur-Dakshina Kannada region.
Sources in ANF said night patrolling and combing had come to a halt and only occasional daytime patrolling was being carried out following a drain in morale after ANF constable Naveen G Naik was arrested for shooting the youth, Kabeer.
“Combing operations are being carried out only once a day due to lack of enthusiasm among the personnel especially constable cadre. Senior officials have been confronted by juniors and told that restraining use of arms would make ANF sitting ducks during combing operations,” an official said.
ANF personnel were checking a pick-up truck at a checkpost along with policemen when the youth was killed. Following the incident, senior officials decided to employ ANF only if Naxal activity is spotted, police sources said.
Senior officials of Internal Security Division and ANF held meetings to find ways to keep up morale of ANF. “The main concern among top officials is that poor morale and laxity in security measures in Western Ghats could be a breeding ground for Naxal activities and can wipe out years of hard work gone into breaking the Naxal network,” the official source said.
According to ANF sources, intensive search and combing alongside developmental activities resulted in Maoist groups losing support base and failing to attract cadre. New leaders of Maoist groups in the region like Vikram Gowda and a dozen Naxal cadre have temporarily shifted base to Kerala and are waiting for an opportunity to gain public support and build a network on the lines of the nearly 50-member cadre that existed in the region a decade ago.
Though originally sanctioned strength of ANF was 543, the force is currently short of 100 personnel.
ANF constable Naik was a recipient of President’s Gallantry Medal on Independence Day in 2013 for his role in an operation in 2012 that led to killing of Maoist leader Yellappa.
The police initially resisted the arrest of Naik fearing it would affect morale of ANF and justified that the firing was done in line of duty. Naik was finally arrested on April 25 after Congress in Karnataka intervened following pressure from civil rights groups and State Human Rights Commission. The demand included Rs 10 lakh compensation for kin of the victim.
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