Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Despite ban, Maoists strike at will

23 Jun 2009, 1055 hrs IST

Five Indian states are swarming with security forces on the alert ever since the Maoist-sponsored 48-hour bandh call – but on day two of the strike, Naxals have struck with equanimity in several areas in the three states of West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand.

Significantly the CPI(M) rural party office in the town of Jhargram in West Bengal, some 50 kms away from the epicentre of recent Maoist activity, was ransacked and burnt down late on Monday night (June 22-23), this despite a heavy police presence in the area due to ‘Operation Flush Out’ going on in Lalgarh.

Maoists attacked and ransacked the local CPIM office in Jhargram late last night, and also blew up a concrete culvert in the nearby area.

This move seems to be the latest in the Maoists’ bid to extend their reach to areas beyond Lalgarh – since Jhargram is not known to be their stronghold and the bandh call has been generally seen to be ineffective here. The attack occurred despite heavy police deployment in the area due its proximity to Lalgarh.

In a separate retaliatory attack in Gaya, Bihar, Maoists blew up a Mobile tower leaving behind posters that said they were taking revenge against the Lalgarh security operations by state police and central security forces.

Also, at Jharkhand’s Palamu Saridi forest, Maoists allegedly blew up the local panchayat Bhavan.

Reporting from on the ground near Lalgarh, TIMES NOW correspondent Sambit Pal said with Lalgarh practically evacuated, the Maoists were trying to drive out the CPI(M) even from the villages and towns beyond the area.

“Two things are happening simultaneously; on one hand security forces are moving into various villages of Lalgarh in small groups, searching out and evacuating civilians to minimize casualties. As a result there is hardly anyone left in these villages – either they have been shifted by the Maoists to core areas of operation, or they have taken shelter in the state relief camps on the outskirts. Second, the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) which is the frontal organisation of the Maoists, has started extending its reach out of Lalgarh towards other areas.

“This is alarming because towns like Jhargram have never been known to be Maoist ‘territory’, with no history of law and order problems. But now the fear here is palpable. There were several witnesses to last night’s attack, however none had the courage to offer resistance,” noted Pal. None of the people who spoke to TIMES NOW was willing to go on record and identify themselves for fear of reprisals by PCPA activists after ‘Operation Flush Out’ comes to an end.”

The Naxal bandh meanwhile was found to have an impact in places with Maoist presence. A 100 kms from Lalgarh police station, despite heavy police presence, the Lalgarh market was completely shut today. In Jhargram however life has been normal with no impact of the bandh.

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