Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Police heat on Maoists in Lalgarh

25 Mar 2009, 0506 hrs IST, TNN

KOLKATA: The state government is planning a police crackdown in Lalgarh to flush out Maoists before the elections. But learning from the mistakes in
Nandigram, the police offensive will "confront Maoists without endangering local people".

This was made clear by state home secretary Ardhendu Sen on Tuesday at Writers Buildings. "The situation there is not conducive to holding the elections," Sen said, almost announcing a police encounter in the troubled Lalgarh area of West Midnapore, where local tribals had launched an offensive allegedly with the support of Maoists.

The state government has told the Election Commission about the impending trouble. "It would impossible to hold elections in Lalgarh in the current situation. We can't have isolated forces in the area. Flushing out of Maoists is essential for peaceful polls," Sen said. He added that preparations were on to initiate police action before the elections. "We can't reveal the tactical decisions," he said, not ruling out confrontation with common people. "It's a complex problem. We've got to be careful."

Hours before these announcements, West Midnapore district magistrate N S Nigam met Lalgarh tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato to try and convince him to let policemen enter the area ahead of the elections.

Mahato, the convener of People's Committee Against Police Atrocities, has asked for time to discuss the DM's proposal with other committee leaders before coming to a decision. The meeting focused on the need to send police force to Lalgarh, where PCPA activists are continuing their boycott of policemen. On Saturday, police were gheraoed when they tried to enter the area.

Mahato said, "I can't take a decision of my own. We have a committee comprising 108 members. All of them have to discuss the matter before a decision is reached." The DM explained to him the need to send police forces to the area once the poll process starts.

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