West Bengal rushes security forces to Lalgarh


Kolkata : The West Bengal government Thursday rushed reinforcement of security forces to its troubled Lalgarh region in West Midnapore district even as the Maoist rebels called for a two-day shutdown in five states beginning Monday to protest the security operations.

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Official said police and paramilitary forces had been asked to move to West Midnapore district, about 200 km from here, to conduct a joint operation to flush out Maoist guerrillas who have been active in organising a tribal movement alongside a group called the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA).

“We have moved forces in the morning,” Inspector General of Police Raj Kanojia told IANS.

Asked when the operation against the guerrillas will be launched, Kanojia said: “We have our people there. They will take the decision at the appropriate time.”

Another senior police officer, who did not wish to be named, said: “We are ready to launch the operation. We are waiting for orders.”

Reports from Midnapore town, the headquarters of the district, said five companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and two companies of the Cobra Force, specially trained to combat Maoists, have reached the district.

Police have also sent a large quantity of tear gas shells and protective shields for security personnel taking on the Maoist rebels in the troubled area.

However, the PCAPA and Maoists have dug up roads and felled several trees on approach ways to Lalgarh to obstruct the entry of the security forces.

On Wednesday, the state government had declared that it was ready to launch an operation to free Lalgarh from the control of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) even as the guerrillas shot dead three workers of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist(CPI-M).

In response, a top rebel leader said the central and state governments had started psychological warfare against the people in Lalgarh with its show of force.

“The prime minister (Manmohan Singh) and home minister (P. Chidambaram) have started a psychological warfare by amassing huge forces. If they start the operations, we will resist with the help of the people who are with us,” CPI-Maoist politburo member Kishanjee told a television channel over phone.

Kishanjee alias K. Koteshwar Rao hails from Andhra Pradesh but has been camping in Lalgarh.

He said the rebel group has decided to call for a two-day shutdown beginning Monday in West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar.

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.

Police arrested some school students and allegedly harassed tribal women following the landmine blast. In protest, angry tribals virtually cut off the area from the rest of the district.

During the last few days, the agitators have torched CPI-M offices, driven away the party’s supporters and forced police to wind up several camps, thereby establishing a virtual free zone.

Maoists have been active in the three western districts of the state – West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. They also backed the Trinamool-sponsored movement against the state government’s bid to establish a chemical hub at Nandigram in East Midnapore district.