Questions over PMRDF ‘Naxal links’https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/questions-over-pmrdf-naxal-links/

Questions over PMRDF ‘Naxal links’

At a time when simultaneous security operations and developmental works are continuing well in Gadchiroli,the issue

At a time when simultaneous security operations and developmental works are continuing well in Gadchiroli,the issue of a Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) and his friend being scrutinised for suspected Naxal links has put cold water on the good coordination that had come to be established between the Collector and top police officials.

Police claimed they registered cases against PMRDF Mahesh Raut from Chandrapur and friend Harshali Potdar from Mumbai after two arrested “Naxalites” revealed that the couple were travelling with them to meet top Naxal leaders. Police also claimed Raut and Potdar had been under surveillance after they were found protesting against a proposed Jindal Steel iron ore mining project in the district last month.

Raut has refuted the allegations,pointing out that his work involved routine visits to interior villages. “It was only coincidental that we were in Koinvarshi village where the two (alleged Naxals) were caught,” he told The Indian Express. He has also pointed out that being at a protest was not a sign of Naxal links.

What has made matters more puzzling is the decision by police to invoke the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against Raut and Potdar,even while not arresting them.

District Collector Abhishek Krishna said he wasn’t told by police of any offence being registered against the two. He also called Raut the best of the three PMRDFs in the district.

Even as the gap between the administration and police is now in the open,the question being asked is that if police have material to register an offence against the two,that too under the UAPA,why have they not been arrested? Deputy Inspector General of Police Ravindra Kadam claimed this was not necessary as Raut and Potdar had been cooperating and police weren’t afraid of them absconding.

Sources told The Indian Express that the “offence” against Raut was more in the nature of “connections with some Naxal sympathisers” while Potdar’s was “a threshold case of initiation into Maoist propaganda machinery”.

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Be that as it may,Gadchiroli can scarce afford this seemingly unnecessary controversy over a flagship anti-Naxal plan by the Centre.

Vivek is a senior editor based in Nagpur

vivek.deshpande@expressindia.com