Armed Maoists stop journalists on way to Lalgarh

June 19th, 2009 - 7:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Nimatala (West Bengal), June 19 (IANS) Some journalists covering the operation to flush out Maoists from West Bengal’s Lalgarh area had the scare of their lives Friday when armed Maoists stopped their cars and seized their mobiles in this village close to the trouble zone.
About 25 Maoists, dressed in full battle fatigues and some carrying assault rifles, came charging down the road and asked the journalists to alight from their vehicles before taking away their mobiles.

The Maoists, led by their action squad leader Bikash, were accompanied by more than 100 activists of the tribal People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), said one of the intercepted journalists.

Nimatala village lies between Pirakata, from where the security forces started their operation Thursday, and Bhimpur where the forces have set up camp to get to Lalgarh, about 150 km from state capital Kolkata.

Following Bikash’s instructions, PCAPA leader Manoj Mahato then spoke to the mediapersons alleging that the police were committing atrocities on “innocent villagers”.

“They are attacking the villagers, damaging houses and looting rice. Police must free those they have arrested and pay compensation to the villagers,” the journalist quoted Mahato as saying. Mahato also demanded the forces be withdrawn.

The Maoists then started planting mines in the area before asking the journalists to go to Bhimpur through a bypass.

“We don’t consider the media enemies,” Bikash said before returning the mobile phones to the journalists.

At a media conference in Kolkata, state Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen said there were reports of attacks on journalists by the Maoists and PCAPA members.

“We have been told that bricks have been hurled on media cars. We request those who have entered the troubled area by following the security forces, not to go ahead,” he said.

“This may be extremely risky. Please be extremely cautious and don’t make the work of the police more and more difficult.”

Security forces have launched a three-pronged offensive to flush out the Maoists from Lalgarh. The Maoists and their tribal supporters dug up roads, cut trees to block roads and put up a “human shield” to prevent the security forces from advancing.

The heavily armed central and state forces resumed their operation Friday morning after a night halt near Koima, about 10 km from Lalgarh.

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.

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