Security forces reclaim West Bengal’s Ramgarh from Maoists


Lalgarh (West Bengal) : The security forces Saturday reclaimed the Maoist stronghold of Ramgarh near here, with the rebels torching an office of the communist Party of India (CPI) before fleeing.

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Marching through dense forests, defusing landmines, firing mortars and engaging in gunbattles with the Maoists, the joint force of the state police and paramilitary troopers reached West Midnapore district’s Ramgarh police outpost, 22 km from here, in a two-day surge from the Goaltore police station on the border of West Midanpore and Bankura districts.

“The forces have reached (Ramgarh). The Maoists have fled the area. None of them are there now,” Inspector General of Police (Law and order) Raj Kanojia told IANS.

He said the security forces did not suffer any losses during the nine-km trek from Goaltore.

The Maoists, who had torched the outpost and driven out the civil administration earlier this month from Ramgarh, set afire the CPI office before retreating five kilometres to another of their dens, Kantapahari village.

“Around 70 of us were watching television. The Maoists asked us to come out and then set the office on fire,” a CPI leader told the visiting media.

He alleged that the people are forced to go without food and water over the last few days. “Most of us work as labourers. But there is no work now.”

The security forces marched into the Ramgarh outpost, under Lalgarh police station, and set up a base camp there on the 10th day of the massive security operation launched by the West Bengal government to flush out Maoists from areas in and around Lalgarh, 200 km from state capital Kolkata.

“We have reached Ramgarh. We will set up a camp and restore normalcy. The operations will be on. We hope the public will help us,” said Deputy Inspector General (Operations) of Criminal Investigations Department S.N. Gupta, who led the forces.

However, district superintendent of police Manoj Verma declined to spell out whether the forces have suffered any losses. “We will not give any such details. The operations will go on till the situation becomes completely normal”.

Lalgarh is the headquarters of Binpur-1 block in Jhargram sub-division. Ramgarh is a village under the same block.

Lalgarh has been on the boil since 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 West Midnapore district.

Maoists are active in areas under 21 police stations in the state’s three western districts – West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.