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Labelled as Naxals for Being Vidarbha Supporters?

Amidst frequent police alerts that Naxal groups are trying to make inroads in the separate Vidarbha statehood movement, two activists supporting the movement were arrested by Chandrapur police last week for suspected Naxal links.

However, their arrest raises questions as to whether they were real Naxal supporters or are being punished for supporting the statehood cause.

Bandu Meshram, a tailor from Ramtek was arrested in Nagpur and soon after, Ramkumar Akkapalli alias Masram, an autorickshaw driver was also arrested. The Chandrapur police have claimed that incriminating Naxal literature was seized from both.

However, leaders of the separate Vidarbha statehood movement allege that Meshram and Masram were being victimised for their recent association with the movement.

Jambuwantrao Dhote, one of the prominent leaders of the separate statehood movement told Mirror, “Their arrests are unjust. I have spoken to RPI leader Prakash Ambedkar on this issue and the movement leaders will back the two fiercely.”

Sources said Meshram and Masram were associated with Naxal front organisations two decades ago. However, they had given up work before taking up tailoring and rickshaw driving as sources of livelihood respectively.

Sources also said that the separate statehood movement this time has also witnessed  unprecedented support from the Dalit community, which constitutes nearly 30 per cent of the region’s population. Meshram is a Dalit, while Masram is a tribal and with their arrests, the government wants to create a rift in the flanks of the statehood movement leaders, sources added.

The state police have however, justified the arrests. Special IGP (Nagpur Range) Surinder Kumar said, “Both have Naxal links and we have seized documents pertaining to a survey done by Naxal groups of some new areas in the region.”

(Mumbai Mirror, 27 February 2010)