Monday, June 22, 2009

Maoists urged to lay down arms

Special Correspondent

West Bengal government asks the outfit to help restore peace in Lalgarh

Chief Secretary cautions NGOs, intellectuals against visiting Lalgarh

Government will supply rice, other foodstuff to people of affected areas

KOLKATA: The West Bengal government on Sunday renewed its appeal to Maoists and activists of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janashadharaner Committee (PSBJC) to lay down arms and cooperate with it in its efforts to restore normality in the troubled Lalgarh area of the State’s Paschim Medinipur district.

“We are appealing to the Maoists and the PSBJC, who have been behind the trouble in the Lalgarh area and are responsible for endangering the lives of the common people there, to surrender their arms and cooperate with the government in restoring peace in the region,” Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty said.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee held two rounds of meetings with senior State and police officials and reviewed the developments in Lalgarh since security forces launched an operation against the troublemakers.

The government was working towards restoring peace in the affected areas so that people there could resume their normal lives, Mr. Chakraborty said. Ten Maoist activists had been arrested from the area since the operation began four days ago.

He expressed concern at the visit to the area of a group of city intellectuals during the day and urged such groups, voluntary organisations and even journalists not to go there for the sake of their own security.

Paying such visits to the area “at a time when the Maoists are engaged in an armed movement and when the situation is not yet normal” is not advisable, Mr. Chakraborty said. “The police are in our control but we have no control over those using guns and bombs to carry out political terrorism,” he cautioned.

Questions have been raised over the timing of the visit there by the people, including film-maker Aparna Sen and theatre personality Shaoli Mitra, and their meeting with PSBJC convener Chhatradhar Mahato, whom the police are on the look out for.

Whoever committed offences punishable under the Indian Penal Code would have to face the consequences, Mr. Chakraborty asserted.

Commenting on the operation at Lalgarh, he said both the Centre and the State government were “against bloodshed and violence … Our objective is that normality is restored in the area and we will try our utmost in ensuring that the common people are in no way affected [during the operation].”

Relief supplies

The government has decided to supply rice and other foodstuff to the people of the affected areas where ration shops were closed.

“The common people are not being able to leave their homes in fear of the violence. There are others who are homeless. Cash and special gratuity relief is being provided to them,” Mr. Chakraborty added.

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