Lalgarh tribals take out rally, vow to resist security forces (Roundup)

June 24th, 2009 - 10:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan Lalgarh (West Bengal), June 24 (IANS) Agitating tribals in this troubled area Wednesday held a big procession carrying traditional arms, and vowed to continue resistance to the week-long security operations launched to flush out Maoists amid allegations that the forces were ransacking homes and even throwing away food.
In Kolkata, banned Communist Party of India-Maoist spokesman Gour Chakraborty was remanded in police custody till July 6 by a court after his arrest Tuesday night.

Gour Chakraborty, charged under various sections for anti-state activities and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), said on way to the court: “This is the beginning of fascist rule in the state.”

Kolkata Police Commissioner Goutam Mohan Chakraborty, after a meeting with state Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen, told the media: “We will launch operations against Maoist leaders and those having inks with the Maoists.”

Led by the tribal People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), more than 4,000 villagers in this West Midnapore district enclave took out a huge rally in the Dharampur locality, considered a stronghold of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) till last month.

The tribals carried bows and arrows and spears, pick axes, shovels and canes, raised slogans against the CPI-M and demanded withdrawal of the security forces.

“A lot of people have fled the villages. But some have decided to stay back in their houses. And they feel they will suffer at the hands of the forces whether they remain in the villages or not. So they have chosen to die resisting the forces,” PCAPA leader Sidhu Soren said.

Another PCAPA leader, Chhatradhar Mahato, said the agitators will resume their struggle once the central forces comprising the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Border Security Force (BSF) leave.

“We know we can’t resist such a massive force. But the central forces will not stay for ever. Once they leave, we will resume our agitation in the scale we did last November,” Mahato told reporters.

He alleged that the forces were committing atrocities against innocent villagers, including women and children, ransacking houses and even throwing away food.

The PCAPA, backed by the Maoists, had since last November established virtual control over 42 villages in Lalgarh, 200 km west of the state capital Kolkata, and surrounding areas by driving away the civil and police administration.

But the combined forces of the central and West Bengal governments have re-established the writ of the state in more than half of these villages since the operation was launched June 18.

Trying to assuage the tribals, the state cabinet has decided to set up a university named after three tribal heroes - Sidhu, Kanhu and Birsa Munda - in the neighbouring districts where the tribal people have a strong presence.

The Sidhu Kanhu Birsa University will have campuses in Purulia and Bankura districts and offer higher studies in Santhali language, said Higher Education Minister Sudarshan Chakraborty in Kolkata.

Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty made an aerial survey of this enclave and the adjoining areas in Bankura and Purulia districts, before interacting with villagers seeking relief.

Later, speaking to newspersons, Chakraborty ruled out any talks with the Maoists until they surrendered arms, but said the administration’s primary aim was to restore security and ensure food and other supplies for the people living in Maoist-hit villages.

Meanwhile, after meeting Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Union Minister of State for Coal Sriprakash Jaiswal said the central government’s move Monday to ban the CPI-Maoist must have come after a recommendation from the state.

“The state must have sent a recommendation, written or verbal, to the centre to ban the CPI-Maoist,” said the former union minister of state for home. “Without the state government’s recommendation, the centre does not ban an extremist organisation.”

Lalgarh has been on the boil since November when a land mine exploded on the route of the convoy of 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 West Midnapore district.

Leftwing radicals torched police camps, set ablaze CPI-M offices and drove out the civil administration to establish a virtual “free zone” in the enclave of West Midnapore district.

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