Securing Lalgarh could take time: Chidambaram

June 19th, 2009 - 3:26 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) Security operations to free West Bengal’s Lalgarh from Maoist control are on track but could take “considerably more time” than anticipated, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said Friday.
“The operation will take time In fact, it will take considerably more time than had been expected,” he said after briefing reporters after a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“The forces are moving towards Lalgarh. They are moving cautiously. We are also appealing to the people, particularly the tribals, through loudspeakers and handbills that the forces are not against the people,” Chidambaram added.

“The progress is slow but I can’t say when the forces will reach Lalgarh. The operation so far is going according to plan,” he maintained.

“We have to be prepared for the unexpected but I am confident that the operation will be successful.

Planning a three-pronged offensive to flush out the Maoists from Lalgarh, about 150 km from Kolkata, security forces Friday continued their march towards the trouble zone as Maoist rebels dug more roads and burnt a bridge to stall them.

The heavily armed central and state forces, who are moving together to take on the Left wing radicals, resumed their operation Friday morning after a night halt near Koima, nearly 10 km from Lalgarh.

Detailing the manner in which the operations were being conducted, Chidambaram said the state police was “leading from the front” with the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) providing “assistance”.

“The state government has provided adequate forces,” he added.

He also deprecated the use of the word “war” by some media outlets to describe the operations.

“Don’t call it a war. These are Indians. There is a party called the Communist Party of India Maoists. They have taken to arms. This is not a way to function in a democracy.

“We are dealing with a situation in which a militant organisation is challenging the writ of the civil administration. We are engaged in an operation to re-establish the civil authority. The use of the word war is totally inappropriate,” Chidambaram maintained.

Conceding that the people of the area had grievances, the home minister said: “That is something to be addressed by the government of West Bengal.

“If anyone wishes to talk to the state government, they should come forward and do so. We will be very happy to facilitate such talks,” Chidambaram said.

In this context, he noted that West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had been speaking to him everyday and was expected to call on the prime minister Saturday.

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.

Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, the angry tribals launched an agitation virtually cutting off the area from the rest of the district.

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.

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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