Violence rages in Lalgarh

Three CPM workers killed; Centre directs govt to reclaim land

Violence rages in Lalgarh

The rise in the Maoist depredations forced the state administration to deploy additional paramilitary troops which reached the troubled tribal-dominated district to flush out the firmly entrenched Maoists.

The Left Front government’s urgency to despatch troops was preceded by the Centre’s directive to give a clear mandate to the security forces to reclaim areas dominated by Maoists in West Midnapore and adjoining areas.

With the beleaguered Left Front government buying time not to repeat the mistakes of Nandigram, where 14 people were killed in police firing in 2007, Wednesday’s killing of three CPM activists is being seen as an attempt by the armed Maoists to extend their area of influence beyond Lalgarh.

The State government has no control over 42 villages in the Lalgarh subdivision, spread over seven-and-a-half sq km.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee reportedly told a meeting of the ruling Left Front partners that about 500 Maoists—100 of them fully trained in combat and 400 others semi-trained—have sneaked into Lalgarh from the neighbouring Jharkhand.

The ultras have now been trying to expand their area of operations to nearby areas like Goaltor and Salboni and the immediate effort would be to confine them to Lalgarh. “We will test their patience. There will be no attacks on them immediately but once their patience wears thin, they are bound to attack and then the police and the CRPF will launch a counter-attack,” a leader present at the Left Front meeting quoted Bhattacharjee as saying.

Top state administration officials were huddled in closed-door discussion on ways to take on the Maoist challenge at Lalgarh as 13 companies of Central forces, including the elite Cobra commandos from Orissa, reached the state and are on their way to Lalgarh. State police chief Sujit Sarkar and home secretary Ardhendu Sen, who paid a surprise visit to Midnapore, reportedly briefed Bhattacherjee on Wednesday evening on the strategy being devised to flush out the militants. A state home department official told Deccan Herald that “the swathe of land under the control of Maoists is ringed by a thick jungle contiguous to Jharkhand.”

Aware that the authorities have been amassing special forces for a quick crackdown to free Lalgarh from their control, the Maoists backed by the tribals under the banner People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), have dug up key roads leading to the area and felled trees on some others.

The ultras are believed to have mined some strategic places as well to prevent the entry of forces.

These apart, they have also formed a three-tier human shield with women and children in the vanguard, men behind them and armed ultras forming the rearguard to make it difficult for the forces to open fire, police said.

State chief secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty condemned the manner in which innocent tribal children and women have been “forced” by the Maoist action squad to form the shield and cautioned the Maoists against resorting to this “illegal and reprehensible” act. “The innocent people are being used by the Maoists to face the consequences of police action which is imminent,” Chakraborty said.

Undeterred by the government warning, the self-styled Maoist leader of Lalgarh, Bikash, while speaking to a vernacular news channel here, threatened to firmly resist the forces. “The local people are with us and we will fiercely resist the forces with the help of the people. If there is bloodletting (of the innocent), the administration will be fully responsible,” Bikash told the channel.

PCAPA leader Chatradhan Mahato, too, supported him saying there will be strong resistance if the police try to force their way into this zone.

Meanwhile, tribals belonging to the committee went on a rampage for the second straight day, torching five houses of CPM leaders and workers at two places in Lalgarh that has been declared “liberated”.

Even though the government has promulgated prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC, the tribals armed with traditional weapons, set ablaze the abandoned houses in two villages.

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