Thursday, March 26, 2009

Maoists get ready for battle ahead

26 Mar 2009, 0507 hrs IST, Sukumar Mahato, TNN


JHARGRAM/KOLKATA: The road from Jhargram station leads to an undulating meadow at Simlipal, surrounded by hillocks at a distance with a lush-green
cover. Beyond that point, the winding village road leads to the far-flung hamlets where Maoists have a strong presence. A 60-member strong Maoist Guerrilla Army has already taken position atop Kanaisar Hill bordering Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Villagers of Loboni, Pachapani and Jamjurki are keeping their fingers crossed. They fear a bloody battle in this area as soon as the central forces start flush-out operations. "The Kanaisar Hill acts as a watchtower. One can figure out the police movement at least 10 km from Simlipal. Those who have gathered in the hills will retaliate immediately," a villager from Pachapani said.

The message has reached Belpahari police station. Scared of the Maoist retaliation, some of the serving sub-inspectors have managed to get transferred to Kotwali and other "safe" places. Others are waiting with bated breath for the central forces to take the lead.

Chhatradhar Mahato, spokesperson of the Maoist-led People's Committee against Police Atrocities, sounded defiant. "How is it that the state home secretary talks of police action when the district magistrate is holding talks with our representatives? If police have their way, we will resist the move come what may," he said.

Mahato also denied charges brought against them the day they mobbed the team of central forces. "Villagers gheraoed them, but nobody opened fire as claimed by the administration," he said.

Home secretary Ardhendu Sen was categorical about the police action. "We have to send polling parties to these areas. How will they reach there without police presence?" he said.

Prodded by seniors, Mahato on Wednesday came to Kolkata to meet ailing writer Mahasweta Devi, who could not make it to their meeting at Pirkata some days ago. "Mahasweta Devi has been fighting for the cause of Kherias, Sabars and Adivasis since long. I have briefed her about the situation in Lalgarh," he said.

Back in Jangalmahal, the situation remains tense. Police spread over in the camps are not in a position to venture out into the villages. "We don't want political parties to come to our village. Where were they all these months?" said a youth from Pachapani.

SP Manoj Verma seemed unperturbed. "The directive has come from the EC. Police could not enter the villages for the last three months. A total of 13 people have been killed in the past four months. We could not investigate the assault on the CM's convoy. This cannot go on," he said.

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