Saturday, June 20, 2009

Police enter Lalgarh after 7 months

West Bengal may consider merits of banning Maoists
Hardnews Bureau

The security forces finally entered Lalgarh town, in West Midnapore district of West Bengal, on Saturday morning. Since November, Lalgarh was out of bounds for the police and the administration.

On Saturday, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee also met Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in Delhi to discuss situation at Lalgarh. He also met the prime minister. Speaking to the media after the meetings, Bhattacharjee said, "The home minister has advised us to ban the Maoists, as it has been done in states like Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. We will consider it and give it a serious thought." Declining to comment on whether Maoists were running a parallel government in Lalgarh, he added, "I have no answer to this."

The virtual takeover of Lalgarh town, 150 kilometres from the state capital Kolkata, by the Maoists and strong criticism of the alleged "inaction" of the ruling state government is being considered one of the strongest reasons behind this decision, Hardnews learnt.

On Saturday, state home secretary, Ardhendu Sen and director-general coordination, Bhupinder Singh reached Lalgarh. According to Sen, Kishenji has already fled Lalgarh.

Meanwhile, three days after the state police and Central paramilitary forces launched joint operations at Lalgarh, the Communist Party of India (Maoists) offered to talk to the government. In an interview to a Bengali television channel, top Maoist leader Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji also asked West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to come to a designated place at Lalgarh for talks. He also invited intellectuals to come to Pirakata and assured that the Maoists would offer them protection. Kishenji appealed to the state government to stop the security operations. "Don't get waylaid by the Central government's provocation," he said in the interview.

Meanwhile, a combined force of CRPF, BSF, state armed police, Eastern Frontier Rifles and the Kolkata Police crossed the Maoists stronghold of Jhitka jungle and entered Lalgarh without a single casualty.

The forces resorted to retaliatory firing when bullets came flying from dense jungles allegedly fired at by Maoists. Despite moving in armoured, anti-landmine vehicles, the security forces were slow in approaching the area because of roadblocks and surprise attacks by the rebels. Also, landmines planted by the Maoists in large stretches slowed down the security forces. They resorted to tear gas and baton charges to disperse the rebels and reclaim areas.

The state government is trying to use the situation to reach out to the people in Lalgarh. Alongside the police action against armed Maoists, the government has organised relief operations for villagers who have had to flee their homes and taken shelter in village schools in the current situation. The chief minister instructed officials to take special care for the relief of the affected villagers.

The state government is sending 500 metric tonne rice and other relief materials worth Rs 10 lakh. Earlier, the state government had airdropped pamphlets across Lalgarh appealing to people to stay away from Maoists and not to resort to violence of any kind.

Now, even though the Maoists are offering to talk, it's unlikely that the state government will stop operations and accept the offer, Hardnews learnt. Halting operations will only enable to Maoists to regroup and strike again with renewed vigour. Also, this is a tactic of guerrilla warfare waged by Maoists - one step forward and two steps backward.

But, the state government is open to talks with the common people to address their grievances, Sen said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was amusing to learn that the Maoists rebels could be quietened by the combined police force with "baton charghe and tear gas shells". It's nothing but handout journalism.