Three CPI-M activists killed, all set for anti-Maoist operation (Roundup)

June 18th, 2009 - 12:59 am ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram Kolkata, June 17 (IANS) Suspected Maoists Wednesday shot dead three CPI-M workers in West Midnapore district, even as the West Bengal government declared it was ready to launch operations with central forces to free troubled Lalgarh of the rebels.
“The state police will lead the operation. The central forces will provide the back-up,” state Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen told reporters on his return here after day-long parleys with the district administration and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers at Midnapore town - the headquarters of West Midnapore district that includes Lalgarh.

State Director General of police Sujit Sarkar also took part in the discussions.

In the morning, suspected motorcycle-borne Maoists struck again killing three young Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) activists who were members of a local resistance group against the rebels in broad daylight at Badhashuli in Jhargram subdivision.

The killings are seen as an attempt by Maoists to expand their base to areas surrounding Lalgarh, 200 km from here.

So far seven activists of the ruling party have been killed and six are missing in the violence since last week.

“We have to see to it that the level of bloodshed is absolutely minimum,” the home secretary said as five companies of paramilitary forces besides a large posse of state police personnel reached the district.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told the ruling Left Front partners that 500 Maoists - 100 of them fully trained in combat and others semi-trained - had sneaked into Lalgarh from neighbouring Jharkhand.

Central Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in Delhi the state government must reclaim the Maoist-controlled region but felt the communist rulers were “worried about the consequences” of the violence.

“There are adequate central paramilitary forces” available to tackle the violence, he told reporters.

However, Bhattacharjee said as the ultras were now trying to expand their operations to nearby areas like Goaltor and Salboni, the immediate effort would be to confine them to Lalgarh.

“We will test their patience. There will be no attacks on them immediately but once their (ultras’) patience wears thin, they are bound to attack and then police and the CRPF will launch a counter attack,” a leader present at the Left Front meeting quoted the chief minister as saying.

State Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty warned the villagers not to cooperate with the Maoists, who were using “innocent villagers, women and children” as human shield to ward off any move by the administration to flush out the rebels.

But speaking to a Bengali news channel over telephone from Lalgarh, top Maoist leader Bikash said: “People are with us. We will strongly resist with the help of the people. If there is bloodletting, the administration will be responsible.”

The People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), which is in the

vanguard of the tribals’ agitation in Lalgarh alongside the Maoists, said the whole country will be in flames if the central forces entered Lalgarh.

“If the government deploys the central forces, then it will commit a blunder. The entire state, and even the country, will be in flames,” said PCAPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato.

The PCAPA and the Maoists have dug up the roads at three points and felled at least 100 trees on other approach ways to Lalgarh to prevent the entry of the central forces.

The state government has sought 50 companies of the central forces, but Delhi has so far rushed 13 of them. Apart from the five already in the district, eight more are expected to reach Lalgarh in a day or two. Four companies of the Cobra force, specially trained to take on Maoists, are also being rushed in from Orissa.

Earlier in the day, the houses of three CPI-M leaders were ransacked and damaged by the PCAPA members, with armed Maoist rebels - now patrolling important roads and intersections in the area - keeping a close watch.

During the last few days, the agitators have torched CPI-M offices, driven away the party’s supporters and forced police to wind up several camps, thereby establishing a virtual free zone.

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

Police arrested some school students and allegedly harassed tribal women following the landmine blast. In protest, angry tribals virtually cut off the area from the rest of the district.

Maoists have been active in the three western districts of the state - West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. They also backed the Trinamool-sponsored movement against the state government’s bid to establish a chemical hub at Nandigram in East Midnapore district.

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