West Bengal tribals protest police harassment (Lead)

November 13th, 2008 - 11:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Nov 13 (IANS) Thousands of tribals, including women and children, squatted on dug up roads in Maoist-hit Lalgarh in West Bengal Thursday to protest alleged police harassment and the arrest of some school students following the Nov 2 landmine blast targetting the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and two union ministers.The tribals blocked all approach roads to Lalgarh, in West Midnapore district, by placing huge tree trunks on the roads.

Meanwhile, a meeting between the civil administration, police officials and the agitating tribals Thursday failed to find a way out of the impasse.

“The Bharat Jakat Majhi Marwa Juan Ganta (BJMMJG) tribal group reached a consensus with us and decided to withdraw the agitation. But a few Maoists have taken the upper hand and don’t want to call off this agitation,” R.K. Singh, superintendent of police, West Midnapore district, told IANS.

The Maoists are warning the BJMMJG against withdrawing the agitation, he said.

“The area is on the boil since the landmine blast. We’re trying to find a way out through dialogue,” West Bengal Home Secretary Ashok Mohon Chakraborty told reporters earlier in the day.

Trouble began at Lalgarh last week after the district police arrested some school students and allegedly heckled tribal women in connection with the landmine blast that went off when the convoy of Union Ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was passing near Salboni. Both the ministers had a narrow escape in the incident.

Villagers allege that police often arrested people on suspicion of being Maoists. They claimed that the police broke open tribal homes at midnight and beat up women in the course of their investigation.

A landmine had exploded close to Paswan’s security vehicle near Salboni, injuring six policemen of a pilot car.

The convoy was returning after inauguration of JSW Steel’s mega 10-MT steel plant in West Midnapore district.

On Friday the civil administration and police will meet the tribal group at Lalgarh to find a consensus over the impasse.

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