Political Prisoners in India stage daring jailbreak
5 December 2005.
In one of the most audacious revolutionary armed actions India has seen in recent decades, fighters under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) freed hundreds of prisoners after taking over Jehanabad, a small town only 50 kilometres from the city of Patna, the capital of the state of Bihar in eastern India, 13 November.
According to a CPI(M) press release, some 200 members of the People’s Guerrilla Army were involved in seizing the town for two and a half hours. The police claimed they had faced a contingent five times that size. While the jail was the main target, police facilities and the district administration office also came under heavy fire, along with busy Patna-Gaya railway line. The authorities later said that most of the security forces stationed in the town had been sent to protect polling places elsewhere during the state assembly elections. Those on hand reportedly have surrendered after less than an hour of fighting.
Just before the night-time attack, guerrillas on motorcycles rode through the town to warn civilians to take shelter on their homes. Then the power lines were cut, plunging the town into darkness, and shooting began. The Maoist-led fighters used a portable public address system to speak to the townspeople, explaining, according to media accounts, that the people had nothing to fear because the attack was to target the oppressive police and administration.
The authorities reported that 389 prisoners escaped, including, they said, 119 Maoists and supporters, including Ajay Kanu, whom the media described as the PGA area commander. Along with several police, the guerrillas also reportedly killed leaders and members of Ranvir Sena, an upper-caste private militia set up by local feudal forces. The Indian newsweekly Frontline wrote that the two Ranvir Sena leaders killed had led many massacres of lower-caste women and children over the last decades in an effort to terrorize the poor.
Manoj Kanu, described by the authorities as the subzonal commander of the PGA, was seriously injured and captured during the attack and later died in police custody. The authorities said he was the only guerrilla they had been able to get their hands on. After the attack, police and six companies of India’s Central Paramilitary Forces accompanied by helicopters swept through scores of villages in the district where Jehanabad is located and the neighbouring district, considered hotbeds of Naxalite (Maoist) activity, including the home villages of the escaped Moist leader and the comrade who was killed. Frontline said that after ten days of these operations the authorities had not reported any significant gains.
Two days before the Jehanabad jailbreak, the PGA had attacked a Home Guard Training Centre in Giridih in the neighbouring state of Jharkhand, seizing as many as 185 firearms. Warning was sent to Jehanabad that it might come under attack as well. The authorities later wondered how such a large PGA contingent had been able to gather along the Patna-Gaya national highway, which is dotted by villages, without that being brought to their attention. District Magistrate Rana Avadesh, who had received the warning according to the media, was so angry that when he visited the jail the day after the attack, he personally seized a policeman’s lathi (club) and started beating the assembled journalists. Other police joined him. Some reporters were beaten as many as three times over the following days.
Source : AWTWNS