Tribals protest harassment after Salboni landmine blast

November 13th, 2008 - 7:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Nov 13 (IANS) Thousands of tribals staged a demonstration Thursday in West Bengal’s Lalgarh, a backward tribal-dominated region in West Midnapore district, to protest against the police, alleging harassment after the Salboni landmine blast Nov 2.Armed with improvised weapons, tribals, including women and children, squatted on dug up roads in Maoist-hit Lalgarh.

They cut off the area from the rest of the district, protesting the alleged harassment of local people. The villagers also blocked all approach roads with huge tree-trunks.

“The area is on boil since the landmine blast. We’re trying to iron out the impasse through a process of dialogue,” West Bengal Home Secretary Ashok Mohon Chakraborty told reporters here.

He said the district magistrate Thursday held a meeting with all political parties and tribal communities in that region to resolve the issue.

According to officials, the Bharat Jakat Majhi Marwa Juan Ganta, a tribal body, was spearheading the agitation in the area.

Trouble began at Lalgarh last week after the district police arrested some school students and allegedly heckled tribal women in connection with the landmine blast that went off when the convoy of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was passing near Salboni. Both the ministers had a narrow escape in the incident.

The road connectivity between Lalgarh and Salboni was blocked at 13 points near Jhitka forest with big trees. The road leading to Jhargram was dug up at several places at Katapahari.

“The Chief Minister told us to intervene into the situation and if anything happens we’ve orders to immediately start investigation,” said Chakraborty.

Villagers alleged the police often arrested people living in that area, mostly tribals, on the suspicion of being Maoists. They claimed that the police broke open tribal homes at midnight and beat up women in course of their investigation.

A landmine had exploded close to Paswan’s security vehicle near Salboni and injured six policemen of a pilot car.

The incident took place shortly after chief minister’s convoy passed through the area. The convoy was returning after inauguration of JSW Steel’s mega 10-MT steel plant in West Midnapore district.

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