Thursday, June 18, 2009

Red rampage: Bengal cracks the whip on Naxals


RED TERROR SPREADS: Suspected Maoists had shot dead 3 CPI-M workers in West Midnapore district.

New Delhi: The West Bengal police started a massive operation to flush out Maoists from trouble-torn Lalgarh in West Midnapore district and the adjoining areas on Thursday.

The state police is being assisted by Central forces with West Bengal police authorities expecting more forces by Thursday afternoon.

The Centre has confirmed sending forces to West Bengal and has promised more help if needed. Five companies of the CRPF are already there besides four units of the elite anti-Naxal Cobra commando forces

With paramilitary forces being deployed in Lalgarh, a Maoist leader has claimed that the Naxals were prepared to "resist them".

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.

Meanwhile, the CPM has called for a statewide bandh in West Bengal.

Suspected Maoists had shot dead three CPI-M workers in West Midnapore district on Wednesday. The killings are seen as an attempt by Maoists to expand their base to areas surrounding Lalgarh, 200 km from Kolkata.

So far seven activists of the ruling party have been killed and six are missing in the violence since last week.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told the ruling Left Front partners that 500 Maoists – 100 of them fully trained in combat and others semi-trained – had sneaked into Lalgarh from neighbouring Jharkhand.

Central Home Minister P Chidambaram said in Delhi the state government must reclaim the Maoist-controlled region but felt the communist rulers were "worried about the consequences" of the violence.

However, Bhattacharjee said as the Naxals were now trying to expand their operations to nearby areas like Goaltor and Salboni, the immediate effort would be to confine them to Lalgarh.

How did Lalgarh go out of control?

Police officials say the Naxals had been active in the area for months before they targeted Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's convoy with a landmine explosion on November 2.

This was followed by a flurry of arrests of students and tribals.

The Naxals exploited local anger over the arrests. Soon a mob surrounded the Lalgarh police station alleging torture and the people's committee against police atrocities was formed.

A mass uprising had begun, roads were dug up and trees cut down to obstruct the entry of police vehicles.

Police could not enter the villages even for election duty. The Maoists had created a liberated zone within West Bengal.

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