Ban on CPI-Maoist extended, Lalgarh operations continue (Roundup)

June 22nd, 2009 - 8:08 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi/Lalgarh, June 22 (IANS) The central government Monday extended the ban on the CPI-Maoist across the country, including West Bengal, which has so far resisted moves to declare the outfit a terrorist organisation, the home ministry said.
However, West Bengal’s ruling Left Front said it was against banning the CPI-Maoist and would counter such outfits politically, two days after Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee stated that his government will give serious thought to proscribing the rebels.

On his part, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat said: “Maoists must be combated politically and administratively.”

Meanwhile, the security forces intensified their operation to flush out Maoists from the troubled Lalgarh area as a 48-hour shutdown called by the rebels Monday disrupted normal life in their strongholds in West Bengal.

After reclaiming Lalgarh town, security forces continued their operation against the rebels for the fifth day - setting out for Ramgarh town, 22 km away, where the Maoists had virtually driven the civil and police administration away earlier this month.

In New Delhi, Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters: “Today, what we have done, in order to avoid any ambiguity, we have added the words CPI-Maoist in the schedule of the (Unlawful Activities Prevention) Act.

“All ambiguity has been removed,” Chidambaram said of the extension of the ban on the CPI-Maoist.

The outfit is already banned in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa, where the Maoist rebels have a presence.

Home ministry officials said the CPI-Maoist has been banned under the the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act that is applicable all over the country. However, individual states have to issue their own notifications banning the organisation.

The CPI-Maoist, which is the main left extremist group in the country, has been bracketed with 34 other organizations including Laskhar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) who are in the list of banned outfits.

The central government had been pressing the West Bengal government to also ban the outfit.

Chidambaram, at a meeting with Bhattacharjee over the weekend, had advised him to ban the organisation.

In Lalgarh, the security forces also carried relief to villages in the West Midnapore district that were facing shortage of food and drinking water. The state authorities opened the block development office in Lalgarh, a step towards restoring civil rule in the area which Maoists had declared a “liberated” zone.

The shutdown the Leftwing radicals called against the joint operation by the central and state forces saw vehicular traffic go off the roads, streets deserted and shops and business establishments closed in 18 police station areas in Maoist-affected Bankura, West Midnapore and Purulia districts in the western part of the state.

Security was heightened across the state, particularly in the three districts, in view of the shutdown. Police patrolled the streets and guarded vital installations and carried out checks in trains and buses, said a senior police officer.

West Midnapore distict magistrate N.S. Nigam told IANS: “Movement of vehicles was affected in some parts of the districts. Shops also remained closed.”

In Bankura district, normal life was paralysed in areas under seven police stations where the rebels have a strong base.

A South Eastern Railway source said train services over the Purulia-Birmadih section were disrupted after the Maoists threatened the station master and some gangmen and a suspected bomb planted by the rebels was found close to the Birmadih station.

Bomb squad personnel were rushed to the spot.

“The operations are on. There has been no major incident so far,” Inspector General of West Bengal Police Raj Kanojia told IANS in state capital Kolkata. Lalgarh is 200 km from Kolkata.

A security force patrol found a wire and other materials that could be used in planting landmines barely 500 metres from the Lalgarh police station Monday morning.

“We have intensified search for land mines and bombs on the entire Lalgarh-Ramgarh route. Our move to reclaim Ramgarh is now on a limited scale. Full-scale movement will begin only after we sanitise the entire stretch,” said a senior police officer.

The rebels had torched the Ramgarh outpost earlier this month, forcing the state police to retreat from the area.

Lalgarh has been on the boil since last November when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada.

Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, angry tribals backed by Maoists launched an agitation virtually cutting off the area from the rest of the district.

In recent days, the agitators have torched CPI-M offices, driven away the ruling party’s supporters and forced the police to leave, thereby establishing a virtual free zone.

The rebels also backed the Trinamool Congress-sponsored movement against the state government’s bid to establish a chemical hub at Nandigram in East Midnapore district.

The CPI-Maoist was founded in September 2004, through the merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People’s War and the Maoist Communist Centre of India.

In the merger, a provisional central committee was constituted, with People’s War leader Ganapati named as the general secretary.

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