No breakthrough in talks between state poll panel, Lalgarh tribals

April 12th, 2009 - 10:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan Kolkata, April 12 (IANS) A meeting between the Election Commission officials and a top tribal leader Sunday on conducting Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal’s troubled Lalgarh region ended without any breakthrough. However, the two sides said they will remain in touch to resolve the issue before the April 30 polling.
Briefing reporters after the deliberations, state’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Debasish Sen said he had given some proposals to People’s Committee Against Police Atrocity (PCAPA) leader Chattradhar Mahato for ensuring free and fair polls in the volatile region in Midnapur West district.

“We have exchanged telephone numbers. They said they will have to discuss among themselves. I have requested them to decide fast. They have promised they will consider the proposals,” Sen said. Polling in Lalgarh, part of the Jhargram Lok Sabha constituency, will be held April 30.

Mahato said his organisation was in favour of the polls, but still stuck to the stand that state police and central forces will not be allowed to enter the area.

“We are not going to allow the state police. We have invited the the CEO to visit the area. We can also do the work done by the police. We can ensure security for the polling personnel. But we are opposed to the state administration entering Lalgarh,” he said.

Mahato suggested police from other states be brought in for the polls and members of the civil society and intellectuals be deployed as observers, and turned down Sen’s proposal for deployment of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel.

“What is the guarantee that CRPF will not stay back? We will discuss the issue among ourselves and then take a decision,” Mahto said, though Sen noted central forces like the CRPF could not stay back as they had to be redeployed for the next phase of the polls.

Sen said deploying civil society representatives and intellectuals as observers was not feasible now. “It is an achievable target in the long run,” he said.

However, he exuded confidence that the polls would be held in a conducive environment. “The EC conducts this massive exercise in situations which are very diverse. If needed, some special strategy will be drawn up,” Sen said.

Meanwhile, some police personnel and a block development officer were detained by the tribals in Lalgarh after they entered the area Sunday, and only released after six hours.

Trouble erupted in Lalgarh last November after the police arrested some school students and allegedly harassed tribal women following a landmine blast on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada near Bhadutala area.

Lalgarh residents have been protesting police “excesses” and resisting a planned government crackdown against Maoist rebels ahead of the elections.

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