Monday, August 17, 2009

Joint forces, Maoists clash over tribals’ meeting in Lalgarh

Lalgarh (West Bengal), Aug 17 (IANS) The joint security forces and suspected Maoist rebels Monday clashed near Gohomidanga area in West Bengal’s trouble-torn Lalgarh over a proposed meeting organised by a tribal body protesting police excesses in the region.
According to police sources, the Maoists opened fire at the central paramilitary force troopers and the police personnel when they tried to stop people from heading towards Gohomidanga locality to attend a gathering called by the People’s Committee against Police Atrocity (PCAPA) leader Chattrodhar Mahato.

The gun battle continued for hours between the two warring forces.

The central forces troopers also dismantled the podium set up to hold the meeting there. The district has already imposed prohibitory orders banning the assembly of more than four persons in and around Lalgarh to foil any gathering of tribals in that area.

Meanwhile, PCAPA activists had shifted to a nearby place and arranged the meeting there, within one kilometre from Gohomidanga where the rally was originally scheduled to be held.

“We were always with people and we’ll continue to stand by them. The joint forces are torturing villagers in the name of flushing out the Maoists. The government must stop this joint operation for the sake of people in Lalgarh,” Mahato told reporters.

“We’re carrying out our movement democratically. If the state government does not withdraw the central forces, this movement would further spread in other neighbouring districts,” he added.

The state government had launched a massive security operation June 18 to flush out Leftwing rebels who had virtually made areas in and around Lalgarh in the neighbouring West Midnapore district a “free zone” since November last year.

However, despite the nearly two-month-long security operation, the Maoist activities have been going on unabated, with several CPI-M cadres and tribals - whom the radicals have described as police informers - killed.

Maoists are active in the state’s three western districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.

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