Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lalgarh: it’s wait and watch

Raktima Bose

QUEUEING UP FOR ESSENTIALS: Residents of Lalgarh and its surroundings wait to collect rice at the Block Development Office of Lalgarh on Monday. Due to “Operation Lalgarh,” shops have been closed and people have not been able to get essential items.

LALGARH: Five days into the joint operation launched by the Central paramilitary forces and the West Bengal police against the Maoists and the alleged Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC) in the Lalgarh area, both the security forces and the Maoists seem to have adopted a ‘wait and watch’ policy before making their next move.

No movement of security forces took place on Monday as the top officials of the Central Reserve Police Force and the State police held several meetings on their next course of action.

Combing operations in villages adjacent to the Lalgarh police station, however, continued. Security on the road leading to Lalgarh has also been tightened with both Border Security Force and State police personnel checking every car entering the zone.

More security forces

A senior CRPF official told The Hindu that six more companies of the CRPF were expected to reach the district within a couple of days after which a three-pronged offensive would be launched to flush out the Maoists in the region. Currently, there are 11 companies of the CRPF posted in the district, of which six are stationed at Lalgarh.

Four suspected Maoists were arrested from Khaerpahari in West Medinipur and the Bankura border late on Sunday night. The police recovered a detonator, some wire and a firearm from them. They were produced in court on Monday and were remanded to 14 days of police custody.

The entire area beyond Pirakata, 18 km from here, wore a desolate look as shops remained closed and vehicles remained off the road because of the 48-hour bandh called by the Maoists.

People flee

Meanwhile, more and more people are fleeing from the conflict zone and taking shelter at relief camps organised by both the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Trinamool Congress.

“We were terrorised by the Maoists who threatened to kill us unless we leave the CPI(M). Even the police beat us up suspecting us as Maoists. We have nowhere to go,” said Sheikh Idris, resident of Chhoto Sijua village and a CPI(M) supporter.

Those still staying back are facing acute shortage of food because no vehicle has been allowed to enter the region since last week.

The district administration started distributing rice to residents of four blocks — Salboni, Binpur II, Jhargram and Goaltore. District magistrate Narayan Swarup Nigan said 500 tonnes of rice had been requisitioned for distribution.

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