Security forces step up Lalgarh operations, Maoists enforce shutdown (Lead)June 22nd, 2009 - 7:32 pm ICT by IANS
Lalgarh (West Bengal), June 22 (IANS) Security forces intensified their operation to flush out Maoists from the troubled Lalgarh area as a 48-hour shutdown called by the rebels Monday disrupted normal life in their strongholds in West Bengal.
After reclaiming Lalgarh town, security forces continued their operation against the rebels for the fifth day - setting out for Ramgarh town, 22 km away, where the Maoists had virtually driven the civil and police administration away earlier this month.
In Lalgarh, the security forces also carried relief to villages in the West Midnapore district that were facing shortage of food and drinking water. The state authorities opened the block development office in Lalgarh, a step towards restoring civil rule in the area which Maoists had declared a “liberated” zone.
The shutdown the Leftwing radicals called against the joint operation by the central and state forces saw vehicular traffic go off the roads, streets deserted and shops and business establishments closed in 18 police station areas in Maoist-affected Bankura, West Midnapore and Purulia districts in the western part of the state.
Security was heightened across the state, particularly in the three districts, in view of the shutdown. Police patrolled the streets and guarded vital installations and carried out checks in trains and buses, said a senior police officer.
West Midnapore distict magistrate N.S. Nigam told IANS: “Movement of vehicles was affected in some parts of the districts. Shops also remained closed.”
In Bankura district, normal life was paralysed in areas under seven police stations where the rebels have a strong base.
A South Eastern Railway source said train services over the Purulia-Birmadih section were disrupted after the Maoists threatened the station master and some gangmen and a suspected bomb planted by the rebels was found close to the Birmadih station.
Bomb squad personnel were rushed to the spot.
Reports from Jhargram sub-division, within which Lalgarh falls, said the shutdown had a considerable impact in Jhargram town and some other areas with vehicular traffic going off the roads and streets remaining deserted. Shops and business establishments also downed shutters in the town.
A Maoist leader, Raju Bauri, was arrested for his alleged role in the murder of a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) activist.
“We were looking for him as he is involved in the killing of a local CPI-M leader,” said a police source.
“The operations are on. There has been no major incident so far,” Inspector General of state police Raj Kanojia told IANS in state capital Kolkata. Lalgarh is 200 km from Kolkata.
A security force patrol found a wire and other materials that could be used in planting land mines barely 500 metres from the Lalgarh police station Monday morning.
“We have intensified search for land mines and bombs on the entire Lalgarh-Ramgarh route. Our move to reclaim Ramgarh is now on a limited scale. Full-scale movement will begin only after we sanitise the entire stretch,” said a senior police officer.
The rebels had torched the Ramgarh outpost earlier this month, forcing the state police to retreat from the area.
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, angry tribals backed by Maoists launched an agitation virtually cutting off the area from the rest of the district.
In recent 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.
The rebels also backed the Trinamool Congress-sponsored movement against the state government’s bid to establish a chemical hub at Nandigram in East Midnapore district.