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10 Jun 2017

Scan on Darjeeling intelligence gap

Sukna, near Siliguri, wears a deserted look during the shutdown on Friday. 
Picture by Passang Yolmo
Pranesh Sarkar and Kinsuk Basu, TT, June 9: The protests that put police on the backfoot for several hours in Darjeeling yesterday has prised open a set of difficult questions for Bengal's police establishment, which is responsible for gathering intelligence and taking measures to fend off any untoward incident.
Although the chief minister and senior civil and police officials were away in Darjeeling, the state secretariat was abuzz with discussions on whether the intelligence branch, which gather intelligence in the districts, was properly carrying out its responsibility in Darjeeling.
"What's more surprising is that no one had any inkling that such a violent protest could take place. Everyone was shocked. What were the intelligence officers doing?" asked a senior Nabanna official.
The district units of intelligence branch gather inputs and send regular reports to the top brass of the administration. The inputs collected by the intelligence branch help the state government prepare plan of action to prevent untoward incidents.
"But it seems there was no advance warning about the trouble that broke out in Darjeeling yesterday," said another official.
The fact that there was no warning was clear because police were outnumbered. There were only 600 to 700 policemen who were posted to tackle a gathering of 6,000 Morcha activists.
The administration realised the fault of deploying lesser number of policemen after the trouble broke out.
"More policemen were brought in police vans after Morcha supporters launched attack on the policemen... It proves there was a fault in planning," said an official.
According to sources, the failure of intelligence wing was evident after the preliminary investigation reports suggest that some of the Morcha supporters were carrying crude bombs and even firearms.
"This should not have happened because the agitation was being held a stone's throw distance from the place where the chief minister and several other VVIPs were present," said an official.
On the pretext of anti-Bengali language protests, Morcha had been holding rallies since June 4 to mobilise a large gathering when the chief minister would be present in the hills.
"It seems they were using the programmes to mobilise people to show their strength on June 8 when the cabinet meeting was scheduled to be held. But it now appears that there was no warning from the intelligence officers that the show of strength would lead to such large-scale violence," said an official.
The same kind of surprise was in store for the state in Bhangar on January 17 when two persons were killed and few others were injured when villagers had clashed with police. The police had tried to raid some villages where an anti land acquisition movement was on to protest a power sub station. Following the incident, the project had to be put on hold.
"The state administration was in dark though the villagers were holding protest rallies and meetings to oppose the power project for the past few days. Lack of intelligence inputs turn things critical," said an official.
Sources said top government officials had taken steps to upgrade the intelligence branch by recruiting more people and imparting training to them in several languages soon after the Khagragarh blast in 2014. "But the plans are yet to take a final shape... It takes time to make things happen in government establishments," said an official.

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