Monday, June 22, 2009

Tribals clash with cops on Naxal trail

22 Jun 2009, 0247 hrs IST, Sukumar Mahato, TNN



BELPAHARI (W MIDNAPORE): More and more cases of clashes between security forces and tribals — some reportedly sympathisers of Maoists and the rest
innocents — are emerging as the battle of Lalgarh enters a crucial phase. On Sunday, when security forces arrested three rebel suspects — Lubu Tudu, Lodhu Singh and Dadan Hansda — they faced a hostile crowd baying for their blood.

Scores of men and women resisted the forces as they caught hold of the three. A woman, Rajari Tudu, led the village folk and attacked the BSF jawans with household knives, injuring a jawan.

The security forces are facing another trouble: at many places shopkeepers simply refuse to give them eatables citing Maoist boycott. On Sunday afternoon, security personnel from three police camps — Banspahari, Neguria, Jamtalgora in this part of Jangalmahal — beat up a shopowner, Gostha Das, in the Chakadoba Market after he refused to sell food articles to the jawans. The locals said Gostha declined them food because of a "police boycott". "The jawans then barged into his shop and started beating him," said Tarani Hansda.

This was not all. Angry jawans raided the huts. Tarachand Soren, panchayat executive of the Banspahari gram panchayat, was pulled by his collar and given a thrashing. Block Development Officer (BDO) Bhaskar Pal had to talk to the additional superintendent of police (operations) M. Murlidharan following which Soren was released.

All these ignited the simmering tension in the neighbouring villages. A large number of women came out of the huts and dared the forces on patrol near Neguria Police Camp. The police, however, claim that while the locals challenged the forces, the Maoists from the forests fired on security personnel. "The shots from fired from the forest, where Maoist run a training camp," said Manoj Verma, superintendent of police of West Midnapore.

Local leader of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA) Jagannath Singh Sardar, however, rubbished the charge. "It’s an excuse to harass the locals," said Sardar.

He pointed to the plight of the ordinary villagers running for their lives, leaving their elders behind. "This is a malaria-prone zone. Many people are suffering from the fever, but there is no transport to take them to the block health centre, 36 km away. Buses have stopped plying and jeeps demand Rs 400 per patient," Sardar said.

District Congress leader Subrata Bhattacharya defends Sardar. "I don’t subscribe to the police action. Our own party activist Kalpana Kalindi of Bardanga is a victim of police torture," Bhattacharya said.

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