Agitating West Bengal tribals place stringent demands

November 14th, 2008 - 6:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Nov 14 (IANS) Investigations into the Nov 2 landmine attack on West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee by Maoists hit a further roadblock Friday as residents protesting “police excesses” asked a top officer to hold his ears and do sit-ups.The residents of Lalgarh in West Midnapore district are incensed as the policemen investigating the landmine attack have allegedly been torturing women and making “indiscriminate” arrests.

The residents have formed an organisation called Polici Santras Birodhi Janaganer Committee (People’s committee against police atrocities). The committee has now come up with a ten-point charter of demands. One of them wants the district superintendent of police to “do sit ups holding ears and apologise”.

The locals have been holding up vehicular movement, but relaxed that Friday, while also demanding that police officers “directly involved in the atrocities rub their noses on the ground to atone for their actions”.

A ten-member delegation from the committee held a two-hour-long meeting with the administration and also demanded a halt to police raids after sunset, release of all those arrested after the blast, and payment of Rs.200,000 compensation to each of the women allegedly injured in the police action.

Reports said the administration turned down some of the demands, but agreed to consider the rest.

In Kolkata, the state’s Home Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty said: “The only solution to this Lalgarh tribal agitation is mutual discussion. We have held discussions with the agitators - Bharat Jakat Majhi Marwa Juan Ganta group - earlier this week. But due to some complications it was not fruitful. We will soon go for for another round of discussions with them.”

Meanwhile, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) state secretary Biman Bose said the police operations at Lalgarh were not meant to “terrorise common people”.

“The police operations in Lalgarh are not meant to terrorise or harass common people, especially tribals, but to identify and pick the Maoists who are related to the landmine blast,” Bose said at the party headquarters here.

Thousands of residents, including women and children, had squatted on dug up roads in Lalgarh Thursday to protest alleged police harassment and the arrest of some school students following the landmine blast.

The tribals blocked all approach roads to Lalgarh in West Midnapore district, by placing huge tree trunks on the roads.

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 Ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada and Bhattacharjee was passing through Bhadutala. They had a narrow escape.

Villagers allege that police often arrested people on suspicion of being Maoists. They claimed that the police entered tribal homes at midnight and beat up women in the course of their investigation.

The landmine exploded close to Paswan’s security vehicle near Salboni, injuring six policemen of a pilot car.

The convoy was returning after inauguration of JSW Steel’s mega 10-MT steel plant at Salboni in West Midnapore district.

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