Thursday, June 18, 2009

'Maoist' Lalgarh tense, central forces begin ops

18 Jun 2009, 0919 hrs IST

Central forces on Thursday (June 18) began their operations to flush out Maoists from villages in Lalgarh in West Bengal. Fifty villages in and around Lalgarh in West Midnapore district have been captured and declared a ‘free zone’ by Maoists.

TIMES NOW has been following the story with reports from the ground in Bengal's West Midnapore area, where the CPI(M) is slowly but steadily being wiped out by the Maoists.

Setting up their base camps around Lalgarh, central forces along with state police began closing in on Lalgarh early this morning. Four-five base camps at strategic locations have been formed, with the objective not to concede any more areas to the Maoists. Maoists have formed a three-tier human shield with women and children in the vanguard, men behind them and armed naxals forming the rearguard, according to a senior police official. Sources say the forces want to minimize casualties and will thus move slowly.

Conceding to pressure from the centre the state government had ordered the police to lead the operation with assistance from the central forces. Five companies of CRPF and 8 companies of BSF will be helping the state police in this operation. The elite Cobra force is also on stand by.

Sending a blunt message to the Buddhadeb Government, the Centre on Wednesday (June 17) asked it to give a clear mandate to the police to reclaim areas dominated by Maoists in violence-hit West Midnapore and its adjoining areas and deal with the "deteriorating" law and order situation.

Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters that he had spoken to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and told him that the state must move its forces to these troubled areas with clear instructions to tackle the situation.

The Minister said there was an impression that while one part of the government was willing to take action against the Maoists, another was worried about the fallout.

"The impression is that one side of the government is willing to take action, the other side of the government is worried about the consequences. Now, it is the judgement the Chief Minister must make. They must move the (security) forces to the affected areas and must reclaim that area which is now dominated by the Maoists," he said.

Agitating tribals of West Midnapore and adjoining areas have been protesting police "atrocities" on them in the wake of the landmine blast at Salboni which was believed to target the Chief Minister.

The tribals, numbering 2000 under the banner of People's Committee Against Police Atrocities led by Chhatradha Mahato, stopped paramilitary forces from reaching the trouble-torn areas. A Maoist action squad leader in Lalgarh said yesterday that what was happening there was the result of public anger against CPI(M) and the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led government in the state. He said the Maoists were prepared to resist paramilitary forces. "It is CPI(M) which resorted to terror and killings and they are now fleeing in the face of public anger," Bikash said adding that the central forces were arriving at the behest of the state government.

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