Saturday, June 20, 2009

Media at Maoists’ receiving end

Prasanta Paul, Lalgarh (West Midnapore), DH News Service:
Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mediapersons covering Operation Lalgarh by security forces to flush out Maoists were on Friday stopped by the rebels.



The shocked media persons, who desperately looked for cover, could still spot armed militants quickly disperse into small groups and mounted gunfire on the police and CRPF personnel who were not prepared to face such an attack from behind and heavy gunfight ensued at Pirrakhuli shortly after noon. The sporadic gunfire continued for nearly three hours as the jawans and police were seen advancing by crawling over fields to identify areas where the militants were holed up.

Four held

But it proved to be a difficult task as the militants kept changing their positions and their movements behind thick foliage in villages. The troops, who made some brave efforts to neutralise the gun fire, finally managed to arrest four ultras alongwith arms, officials said.

Another report from Bhimpur said that pro-Naxal tribals in the locality dug up the main road to prevent the force from either retreating or blocking reinforcemnents from reaching the spot. Authorities are believed to have sent messages for deploying IAF choppers to look for positions where militants are holed up.

In fact, the police were wondering why there was no resistance from the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) activists since Friday morning.

They suspect the activists wanted them to advance into areas where booby traps and landmines have been laid near Jhitka forest. The entry point from Jhargram to Lalgarh via Dahijuri and Dherua was cut off by PCAPA activists last night, SDO Jhargram Ulaganathan said.

Earlier in the day, teams of state police and paramilitary forces started approaching Lalgarh from four sides – Sarenga in adjoining Bankura district, and Goaltore, Pirakata and Dahijuri fronts in West Midnapore district.

“This is a pincer move to cut off the escape routes of the holed-up militants,” an official told Deccan Herald here. But progress from the Sarenga and Goaltor fronts has been stalled in the wake of dug-up roads and felled trees on the key roads. Another approach from Jhargram is now being worked out to encircle the militants from all sides, he said.
Yet, intelligence reports said that a few thousand PCAPA tribals armed with traditional arms are massed at a point beyond Pirakata to stall the advance of the forces.

A fierce confrontation between the forces and the tribals is likely on Saturday when the former alongwith COBRA personnel will strive to push them away to take control of Lalgarh police station, currently under the siege of the tribals.

At least 200 COBRA troops who undertook the job of sanitising a 4 km-long stretch of the Jhitkha jungle, a Maoist stronghold en route to Lalgarh, were understood to have halted their operation and camped at Bhimpur in the wake of Friday's ambush.

The march of security forces also faced stiff resistance in Malida by a “human wall”, comprising hundreds of tribal carrying traditional weapons like bows, arrows and shouting pro-Maoist slogans.

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