Security forces launch combing operation in LalgarhJune 21st, 2009 - 4:18 pm ICT by IANS
Lalgarh (West Bengal), June 21 (IANS) A day after reclaiming the Lalgarh block headquarters, security forces started combing the surrounding villages in this West Bengal area Sunday to search for hiding Maoist rebels, weapons and leaders of a tribal group that have declared the zone “liberated”.
Meanwhile, a group of visiting intellectuals has complained that women and children were being tortured.
On the fourth day of the operation launched by the state government to flush out Maoists from this troubled zone in West Midnapore district, senior officials were holding a high level meeting in Kolkata to take stock of the progress made by the joint forces of the centre and the state and chart out a roadmap for the future.
Security reinforcements comprising several companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security Force (BSF), as also state armed police started off from district headquarters Midnapore for the Bhimpur camp, about five km from this town.
Small teams of the security forces have started scouring nearby villages for Maoist rebels, as also leaders of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) tribal body that launched a seven-month-long agitation that made the area a virtual free zone.
The forces were searching cars at Pirakulli village, where the Maoists had engaged the security personnel in heavy firing Friday.
Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has instructed two union ministers of state Mukul Roy and Sisir Adhikari to proced to Midnapore town and stay put there for the next few days, party sources said.
A section of intellectuals who arrived here Saturday comprise those who have of late been bitter critics of the state’s Left Front government. “We have visited some interior villages and spoken to the people. We also spoke to Chhatradhar Mahato. People are living in danger. They are very afraid that police may beat them up,” claimed theatre personality Saonli Mitra.
She said some of the villages were empty, while children and women were being beaten up. “We have been told that women are being molested, and water has been contaminated in some villages. People are living without food and water,” she alleged.
She however said the intellectuals were opposed to the violent politics of killing indulged in by the Maoists, and appealed to both the rebels and the administration not to use arms.
Filmmaker Aparna Sen said: “We are seeing police everywhere. I have never seen so many police in one area.”
The intellectuals arrived here a day after top Maoist leader K. Koteshwar Rao alias Kishanjee appealed to them to come to Lalgarh and take the initiative for finding a solution to the problems of the tribal people through a dialogue between the rebels and the administration.
On Saturday, the security forces claimed to have gunned down four Maoists. The forces marched through a forest to establish their control over Lalgarh Saturday. However, the rebels hit back, injuring six policemen in a landmine blast.
Two policemen were injured in a landmine blast Friday.
A paramilitary trooper, participating in the operation, died of heat stroke Saturday, Inspector General of state police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told IANS in Kolkata.
This is the first death among security forces after they started the march.
Lalgarh has been on the boil since last November when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada.
Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, 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 ruling party’s supporters and forced the police to leave, thereby establishing a virtual free zone.
Maoists are active in three western districts of the state - West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. They also backed the Trinamool Congress-sponsored movement against the state government’s bid to establish a chemical hub at Nandigram in East Midnapore district.