April 12, 2010

Kobad's Ghandygiri

In Tihar and outside it, the 'silent naxal' is converting people to a dangerous ideology

By: Anshuman G Dutta & Shashank Shekhar
Once a Naxalite, always a Naxalite. Kobad Ghandy may now be behind bars, but the Tihar Jail cell has failed to

At home Ghandy spends most of his time in Tihar jail reading and writing. Petty criminals are influenced by him. file photo

contain his ideological aspirations. To fellow inmates, he is something of an enigma and an inspiration as well, for Ghandy is among the most well-educated prisoners in Tihar. With the Dantewada massacre, in which 76 CRPF personnel were butchered by Naxals, the focus has once again shifted to this low-key Maoist ideologue.

Ghandy, arrested on September 20 last year, has been lodged in Tihar jail in the capital in judicial custody. According to sources, Ghandy mostly reads and writes and keeps to himself, which has generated a lot of curiosity among fellow inmates. Whenever they get a chance, other prisoners try to interact with Ghandy and ask him about his experiences. Reports also suggest that several petty criminals are quite inspired by his Maoist philosophy and are highly influenced by him.

Tihar's denial
However, Tihar spokesperson Sunil Kumar Gupta called Kobad Ghandy a well-behaved inmate who hardly interacts with anyone. "He lives alone in his cell and almost never speaks to others. His daily activity is all about reading and writing," he said. He also denied any influence of Ghandy on other inmates.

But not only the prison, Ghandy's influence seems to be spreading in the virtual world as well. A Yahoo group is circulating a letter, claiming it has been written by the famous Naxal leader who is lodged in jail number 3 of Tihar. The subject of the letter says- Remembering Anu on her Second Death Anniversary- and a small biography of Ghandy's late wife Anuradha, who was also a communist.

Wild wild web
Analysts say that Naxal groups have infiltrated the web world and are carefully surveying social networking sites. Delhi-based Internet behavior expert Vivek Vohra said, "It is surprising that as soon you update your status message with something related to Naxalism, you will immediately see a number of people joining you. Internet users are becoming curious about this issue, probably because of the recent Naxal attack and also rumours of Abhishek Bachchan's role in Raavan being inspired by Kobad Ghandy."

Former joint director of the Intelligence Bureau MK Dhar said: "Naxals have a dedicated team of cyber experts who unlike their counterparts are not stationed in forests and rather live in big metros. They are experts in creating spaces in search engines and web strains which have a large number of members," he said.

Campus recruitment?
The fresh uproar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University on the Naxalism issue has security officials concerned about the Maoists' urban propaganda. "The kind of support Naxals get from educational institutions can not happen in a small time. It's a two-pronged strategy of the Naxals, while they have dominated lands in the interiors of the country, in metro cities they have been carrying out a kind of information campaign through their ideologues," said a senior Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) official on condition of anonymity.

The IB says it has already alerted the government and other agencies about the new age information campaign and propaganda of the Naxals. Prakash Singh , former Director General of Border Security Force (BSF) and a renowned expert on internal security, said, "There are so called intellectuals placed in urban centres and they have quietly been carrying out the propaganda with support from various sections of the society," he said.
He further added, "In fact much of the documentation on Naxals takes place in cities and metros." He also referred to the several warnings by Naxal leader Koteshwar Rao that the war would very soon be fought in urban India.

Naxals on the Net
Sources in the IB said on condition of anonymity that Maoist sympathisers are trying to publish materials written by top Naxal leaders and ideologues on the Internet and even in magazines. "You just need to do a random check on the Net and you would get everything from poetry to articles written by Naxal leaders," said a senior IB official.
He also informed about the various campaigns Naxals and their ideologues have carried out in the capital. "Whenever any big operation related to Naxals happens you would find a certain level of activity on the Internet. In fact there are thousands of groups and sites operating through social networking units like Orkut and Facebook. There are dedicated experts and people with inclination towards the Naxal movement who carry out such information campaigns and propagandas," he said.

Making of a Maoist
Ghandy, arrested on September 20 last year, has been lodged in Tihar jail here in judicial custody. He was accused of trying to set up a network of CPI (Maoist) here. The police invoked provisions of stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act besides booking him for various offences under IPC relating to cheating, forgery and impersonation.
Ghandy hails from a wealthy Khoja-Parsi family in Mumbai. His father was a senior finance executive in Glaxo. He did his schooling from Doon School, where he was Congress leader, Sanjay Gandhi's classmate. He went to St. Xavier's College, Mumbai and did his chartered accountancy from London.

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