Thursday, July 23, 2009

Maoist whiff in hunger strike

OUR CORRESPONDENT

Children on fast at Gohomidanga. Picture by Samir Mondal
Midnapore, July 22: Students of a Lalgarh village were made pawns in the Maoists’ bid to get rid of security forces from the region days after being used as human shields during a march to a police camp.

Over 30 students today sat on a relay hunger strike, allegedly under pressure from the Maoist-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, demanding that the forces camping in their school leave immediately.

Supporters of the outfit marched through Gohomidanga and its neighbouring villages last evening knocking on doors and telling parents that they send their children for the agitation.

“They came last night and told us we better take our children to the hunger strike. I couldn’t go today because I was unwell, but I sent my daughter with a neighbour,” said the father of a Class V girl.

Seven guardians and 32 students were sitting on a dais about 500 metres from Gohomidanga High School today.

Some of the students held placards that condemned the baton charge by the police to disperse the marchers on Monday. Many students had got sandwiched between the police and 10,000 committee supporters during the march and bore the brunt of batons.

Some of the placards today tried to draw the chief minister’s attention to the students’ plight. Others slammed Union home minister P. Chidambaram for sending central forces to the region.

“We are really suffering as our school is closed since July 1. But it is the People’s Committee that is forcing us to take to the streets. Why should we risk our lives and face the lathicharge otherwise?” said a Class XII student.

The first group of fasting students sat from 2pm to 6pm. A group of seniors (Classes IX to XII) and a new set of parents replaced them. This will continue till Friday, a committee leader said.

A senior student pointed out that schools in the region were shut for days on end at the height of the Lalgarh movement. “The committee did not show any concern for us then. Now it’s doing all this to help someone else.”

Gohomidanga High School was shut for over a fortnight late last year. Several schools in the region where the police are camping now were shut for far longer periods.

“The Maoists have created a fear psychosis among the villagers by killing several CPM men in the past month,” a police officer said.

“Now they want to involve common people, even if by force, under the banner of the committee to project to give the impression that it is a spontaneous people’s movement. Their goal is to drive out the forces from Lalgarh.”

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