Security forces enter Lalgarh

Security forces enter Lalgarh

"It is a partial victory. The hundred per cent operation is yet to be completed. It may take days, even weeks to do this," DIG (Midnapore Range) Praveen Kumar told an impromptu press conference outside the Lalgarh police station.
An anti-landmine vehicle cleared the path for the security personnel who reached the police station to take charge of the building.

Central forces, comprising men from BSF and CRPF, fanned out in the forests for combing operations against the Maoists. The securitymen donning camouflage and bullet-proof vests sanitised the five-km stretch of Jhitka jungle, a Maoist area near here.

AK-47 and Insas rifle-toting securitymen came under intermittent fire from Maoists at the Pingboni-Sarenga road on Saturday, Superintendent of Police Burdwan Humayan Kabir said adding two landmines planted on the road were defused.

Lalgarh police station was out of bounds since November last year when tribals under the banner of People's Committee Against Police Atrocities launched a boycott of police to protest raids on their homes following a landmine blast targeting Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee's convoy.

"We have an agenda to establish the rule of the law. Our next move will be to clear 42 villages in areas in Lalgarh from the agitators," Kumar said.

Though it normally takes two hours to reach Lalgarh from Midnapore, security forces took three days. "We moved with caution. We took measures not to risk the lives of ordinary people," Kumar said.

When the security forces were driving from Pingboni, they were obstructed by a number of women. The forces were moving cautiously for the last two days to avoid civilian casualties, he said.

On areas declared 'liberated' by the agitators, he said, "the rule of the law is everywhere. There is no legal concept of a no-entry zone. No one is more powerful than the government."

Asked about Chhatradhar Mahato, leader of the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities spearheading the agitation since November last year, Kumar said he would be arrested.

Firefights with the Maoists occurred at two places between Pirakata and Bhimpur and near Pingboni last night with the villagers fleeing to safety, police said.

The Maoists fired on the Lalgarh police station, with the securitymen there firing back.

As the operation entered a crucial phase, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister P Chidamabaram in New Delhi and apprised them of the situation in Lalgarh.
In Kolkata, Chief Secretary Asok Mohan Chakraborty said that the first task of the administration was to restore normalcy and rule of law.

"We have been able to enter Lalgarh police station. I won't call it an operation. Central and state police forces have entered the police station. Our task now is return of normalcy and to win back the confidence of the people," he said.
To a question, he ruled out immediate talks with the Maoists. "I don't find a congenial atmosphere for discussion with this outfit," he said.

Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen said the government will reopen fair price shops, schools, colleges and block offices.

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