West Bengal tribals protest ‘indiscriminate’ arrests

November 9th, 2008 - 10:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Nov 9 (IANS) The West Bengal government Sunday held a series of meetings with tribals and residents of West Midnapore district who are up in arms against alleged police atrocities and “indiscriminate arrests” after landmine ambush of the chief minister’s convoy here Nov 2. Reports from Salboni said District Magistrate N.S. Nigam has agreed to consider withdrawing cases registered against three students for their suspected involvment in the attack by suspected Maoists.

“Few tribal religious leaders were present at the meeting. All of us will try to persuade residents and the tribals to stop the protests and withdraw the siege on Lalgarh police station,” Nigam told IANS by phone.

However, in Kolkata, Inspector General of Police Raj Kanojia said: “There were long and positive discussions.”

Six policemen were injured in the incident, with union ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada and Chief Minister Bhuddhadeb Bhattacharjee having a close shave while returning from groundbreaking ceremony of the JSW Bengal steel plant.

Red-faced over the attack, despite the presence of scores of security personnel, the police cracked down on the adjoining villages to get clues and rounded up eight people.

Irate people and tribals dug up roads, put up road blockades and laid siege to the Lalgarh police station after the arrest of three students Thursday. All three were freed on bail the next day.

The tribals also complained of police brutalities, saying even their womenfolk were not spared during repeated raids on their villages.

Holding rallies, displaying their traditional weapons bows and arrows, the tribals also snapped power supply near Khoirasol village, plunging surrounding areas into darkness.

The tribals have demanded that the police apologise for the “atrocities” and release all residents of Lalgarh held after the attack.

During the first round of meeting Sunday, the opposition parties staged a walkout as the state’s ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist accused them of being “hand-in-glove” with the Maoists.

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