Poll panel team tours Maoist hotbeds in Bengal

January 20th, 2011 - 5:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Jan 20 (IANS) A high-level team of Election Commission observers Thursday interacted with locals and officials in various politically troubled areas in West Bengal, including the Maoist-infested Lalgarh area which saw a flare up in violence earlier this month.On the fourth day of their trip to the state, the six observers divided themselves into four groups and visited Tarakeshwar and Goghat in Hoogly district, Basanti and Netra in South 24 Parganas district and Maoists hotbed Jhargram and Lalgarh in West Midnapore district.

National Crime Record Bureau’s (NCRB) deputy director Zaki Ahmad went to South 24 Parganas and held discussions with District Magistrate N.S. Nigam and Superintendent of Police L.N. Meena.

Ahmad went to interior places in Basanti and Netra villages, asking people whether they could vote in the previous elections and if they were victims of political atrocities.

In Netra bazaar, where several shops were torched following a political clash and many villagers were forced to stay away, the observer asked the people about the present situation. The villagers surrounded him to narrate their grievances.

The group comprising NCRB’s Joint Director P.R.K. Naidu and Andhra Pradesh’s Deputy Inspector General of Police (Intelligence Bureau) B. Shivadhar Reddy went to West Midnapore district and held parleys with the district Magistrate and senior police officer and then rushed to Jhargram.

In Jhargram, known to be a Maoist hotbed, the duo held meeting with the sub-divisional officer and district top police officers for over two hours. Delegations from the Trinamool Congress and the Congress met the observers and submitted suggestions.

Later, the team members went to Lalgarh accompanied by police officers. When last reports came in, the duo were holding a meeting at a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp there.

Bihar’s Chief Electoral Officer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh rushed to Lalgarh and joined Naidu and Reddy to visit Netai Village, where nine people were killed and at least 17 others were injured Jan 7 in firing allegedly triggered by people sheltered in an armed camp run by the state’s ruling Left Front major Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

Another visiting group comprising Jharkhand Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) D.K. Pandey and Orissa Deputy Inspector General (Special Auxiliary Police) P.S. Ranpise went to Tarakeshwar, Goghat and Pursura in Hooghly, which has witnessed recurring clashes between activists of the ruling Marxists and the main opposition Trinamool.

In Hooghly, the observers witnessed clashes in several places between the Trinamool Congress and CPI-M leaders and supporters, over submitting representations to them.

The group has started for Nandigram in East Midnapore district, which saw prolonged blood-letting between the state’s ruling Communists and the opposition over land acquisition for a proposed chemical engineering hub. The project has been aborted.

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