Security forces continue march to LalgarhJune 19th, 2009 - 2:13 pm ICT by IANS
Lalgarh (West Bengal), June 19 (IANS) Planning a three-pronged offensive to flush out Maoists from West Bengal’s Lalgarh region, 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 here.
“The operation is on in full steam. It is on track. The forces are moving. There has not been much resistance today,” West Midnapore District Magistrate N.S. Nigam told IANS.
One person was detained from near Bhimpur for allegedly supplying information to the rebels in Lalgarh, where the Maoist guerrillas have been active in organising a tribal movement alongside a group called the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA).
The security forces, careful to keep casualties to a minimum, moved slowly as they came close to the four kilometre long Jhitka jungle, considered a Maoist den.
As part of the three-way movement, another police team is approaching this zone from Sarenga in Bankura while a third team is slated to zero in from Jhargram in West Midnapore.
A senior police officer said more police reinforcements are being brought in from Kolkata and other districts to ensure the forces remain fresh when they reach the core area in this West Midnapore block, about 200 km from state capital Kolkata, where the rebels and tribals could put up a stiff resistance.
The PCAPA has burnt a road bridge on Kangsabati river and dug up more approach roads to thwart the advancing forces but police said the security personnel were confident of reaching Lalgarh police station by Friday afternoon.
In Kolkata, senior officers were holding an emergency meeting at the state secretariat to take stock of the operation and plan future strategies. The government was also dropping leaflets from a helicopter, urging people of Lalgarh not to fall into the trap laid by the Maoists to use innocent villagers, women and children as human shields.
On Thursday, advancing security forces lobbed teargas shells and fired rubber bullets as they faced a massive “human wall” and firing by Maoists and tribals.
Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen said similar operations would also be launched in Bankura and Purulia districts.
“We will make areas under all the 18 police stations in the three Maoist affected districts free of the rebels,” he said, adding that doors for discussions were open but first the violence needed to stop.
Top Maoist leader K. Koteshwar Rao alias Kishanjee told a TV channel that he claimed responsibility for the Wednesday night murders of four workers of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) at nearby Goaltor.
Inspector General of Police (law and order) Raj Kanojia said 18 people had been arrested for the killings. Of them, three were from West Midnapore and 15 from Bankura.
Lalgarh has been on the boil since last November when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb 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.