'I'm ready to take on Naxals, but department won't let me'
“I am aware that 104 policemen have been killed by Naxals in the last six years here (in Gadchiroli). But while I am ready to risk my life, the department has discouraged me in fighting against Naxalism,” says Thane encounter specialist Ravindra Angre. It had earlier been reported that Angre had turned down a posting in the district gripped by Red Terror.
The 1983-batch officer from Maharashtra Police Training Academy is responsible for gunning down 54 hardcore underworld gangsters in Mumbai and Thane - including robber-turned-don Suresh Manchekar in August 2003. He has been made to run from pillar to post, despite his willingness to fight against Maoists in Gadchiroli.
In November, there were reports that Angre had declined a recent transfer to the district, following which he was placed under suspension. But soon after that the controversial cop went back to work anyway, and the lay-off was revoked.
Coming down heavily on his superiors, Angre alleged that his bosses have not valued his expertise, owing to which he is being forced to work in the police control room at Gadchiroli. In protest, Angre has once again gone on sick leave.
“I have served the Crime Branch for almost 20 years. Being a part of the Mumbai encounter specialist cadre, my team had played an active role in containing the underworld. Now when I am ready to take on the Naxals, the superintendent of Gadchiroli wants me to sit in the police control room,” Angre lamented.
In the past few years, Angre has courted controversy several times. Following allegations by a local builder he was arrested and put behind bars on two occasions. Subsequent to a departmental inquiry, he was transferred to the Naxal-dominated district.
“As I resumed responsibilities, several young officers visited me. They expressed their willingness to work with me. I had built a good rapport with the young lot. They had been open enough to share their informants with me. With frequent interactions I had planned a line of attack against Naxalism. If I get a chance to implement it, some Maoists will even surrender to the police,” said Angre, who had enrolled and completed a month- long course in Jungle Tactics and Survival at Gadchiroli.
Dichotomy in dept?
Sources in the DGP’s office revealed that some senior officials of additional-director- general rank are keen on letting Angre lead the charge against Naxalism, but superintendent of police Suvez Haque is adamant on keeping him in the police control room. Angre alleged that he had met Haque on at least four occasions, but the latter had rejected his request stating he was too old to fight Naxals. Justifying his eligibility, Angre added, “I have faith in myself and believe that with age I also have experience to supervise and encourage young officers who can be trained in counter-attacks.”
Angre has sought posting in the C-60 unit, which specialises in anti-Naxal operations. There are 21 teams of the C-60 unit at Gadchiroli - each with one sub-inspector-level officer, while the rest are constables and jamadaars. As per Angre’s claims, being the senior-most police inspector of Gadchiroli if he is put in charge of these teams, he would be able to counter Maoists to a great extent.
“I am not saying that I can eradicate Naxalism, but they should at least give me a chance. I have a couple of years left in the police force and I wish to do something good for the department before I retire,” he opined. When contacted, superintendent of police Haque said, “It is a sensitive posting. Unless he (Angre) comes clean on the departmental inquiries against him, it will be very difficult to give him the post he has applied for.”
Getting officers willing to work in Naxal-affected areas has always been a tough task for the state police. Cops who have been transferred to Gadchiroli or other Maoist strongholds such as Chandrapur, Gondia etc either apply for sick leave or manipulate the transfer with the help of their political godfathers. Even the young recruits opt for postings outside these pockets.
Considering the “dangerous nature of their work”, the state adopted a government resolution (GR) on March 20 this year to hike the salary and dearness allowance of cops serving in Naxal-affected areas by 50 per cent.
The increase, however, is only for a year - from January 1 to December 31. Sources say since those posted in Gadchiroli are entitled to special pay, officers on the verge of retirement seek assignments here. This is because the last salary drawn becomes the basis for determining pension. Those who voluntarily accepted a posting in Gadchiroli were not relieved for as many as eight years, some officials maintained.
Where cops fear to tread
Between 2005 and 2011, 104 police personnel were slain in Naxal-affected areas of the state. In the same period, 107 Maoists and 94 civilians were also killed.
None of the officers in the police force roam with the department’s ID cards. Rather, cops working in these pockets carry excise, sales or other state government department identities, fearing attack by Naxals. Taking advantage of the poor intelligence situation, the militants often participate in ‘peace’ rallies, organised mostly inside police stations.
Young recruits who had joined the police force from remote villages in Gadchiroli, Chandrapur and Gondia have not visited their homes in the last 15 years, dreading Naxal strikes. In a recent attack, a group of Naxals set ablaze 27 heavy vehicles of a contractor in Dhanora in broad daylight. Despite repeated calls to the local police station, no cops turned up. Naxals were at the spot for more than six hours.
No of underworld gangsters killed by Angre