Saturday, June 27, 2009

Maoists offer token fight, melt away

28 Jun 2009, 0443 hrs IST, Krishnendu Bandyopadhyay, TNN




RAMGARH: The resistance the forces encountered in the Maoist stronghold of Mohultol was rather tame. A burst of gunfire followed by three IED blasts
was all the rebels had to show. It wasn't enough to deter the forces.

Firing mortars (a CRPF officer said they were merely smoke canisters) in the direction from which the firing had come, the jawans surged ahead. The biggest hurdle that they encountered was the half-hour torrential downpour, around 11.30 am.

At the end of the forest, police found Maoist posters with an 18-point charter of demands in Shirishboni hamlet. These included punishment to those who had carried out atrocities' against villagers after the Salboni mine blast last year and an apology from the then West Midnapore SP. It also demanded Rs 2 lakh fine from CPM leaders.

As the joint forces moved on, two landmines weighing 3 kg each and armed with double detonators were detected and defused. One of them was wrapped in a four-day old newspaper, indicating that it had been planted only recently.

A little later, the force came across posters warning the public not to walk on the road as it had been rigged with mines. However, no mine was detected. "It's all delaying tactics. They don't have the guts to confront us and are pulling off these stunts to delay the inevitable," an officer said.

Next came Tentultala forest, another tricky patch of dense jungle. Even as the jawans ventured in, firing began and a mine was triggered. CRPF resorted to mortar shelling. The Maoists slunk away. The march progressed, only to halt at a culvert where a wire lay across the road. But it turned out to be a false alarm.

After Tentultala, there was hardly any resistance. The next two villages Shiartola and Alamdanga were deserted. Around 1.30 pm, the forces marched into Ramgarh, a town where armed Maoists patrolled the streets in broad daylight just a few hours earlier. The guerrillas had fled after torching a CPI office.

Saturday's operations enabled police to return to Ramgarh after a fortnight's hiatus when they were forced to flee after the phari was set on fire. Though the journey had been without any major hurdles, DIG CID (operations) Siddhinath Gupta, who led the force into Ramgarh, warned that the next phase from Ramgarh to Lalgarh, 18 km away, could be tougher. On the way are several other Maoist strongholds like Barapelia, Chotopelia and Kantapahari.

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