November 12, 2008

Seige enters fifth day, Lalgarh remains cut off

Kolkata, November 11: Meetings fail to reach consensus, prices of essential commodities go up Lalgarh remained cut off from the rest of West Bengal for the fifth consecutive day on Tuesday, as all-party meetings called by the district administration to resolve the crisis failed to reach a consensus. The state government has alleged that outsiders are instigating the locals of the area.“The type of slogans being raised in Lalgarh show the presence of outsiders who are instigating violence,” said Home Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti.

“The trouble at Lalgarh is also hampering the investigations in the Salboni blast, as the officers involved in the probe are now busy with controlling the law and order situation in Lalgarh. Moreover, the snapping of roads has affected the supply of kerosene oil, which is widely used in the area that has no electricity,” he added. Political parties and the administration have failed to arrive at an agreement to allow repair of roads dug upin the Lalgarh area of West Midnapore. Two separate meetings were called by the administration on Tuesday.

The first meeting — called by the block development officer (BDO) of Lalgarh — was held at his office and was attended by gram panchayat pradhans and panchayat samity members of the area. Another meeting was called by District Magistrate Narayan Swarup Nigam in Jhargram with all the political parties. Both the meetings failed to serve the purpose. “We do not intend to use force to repair the roads that have been dug up. We want to resolve the issue through dialogue,” said Nigam. Another meeting has been called on Wednesday.

In both the meetings, the Opposition demanded an end to the 'atrocities' by the police and that the police should release all those arrested or detained for their alleged involvement in the Salboni blast. The Opposition also sought a public apology from the police. District police sources, however, said since the case was linked with the attack on the chief minister’s convoy, it would not be possible for them to allow release of those arrested. “This will give a signal that the administration is compromising even in such a sensitive case,” said a senior police officer of the district police.

Panic was evident among the residents of Lalgarh, with most of the roads remaining deserted on Tuesday. The three police station areas of Lalgarh, Binpur and Belpahari remained cut off, which has resulted in the rise in prices of essential commodities — with potato and candle being the worst hit. A source in the Lalgarh BDO office, however, claimed there was no shortage of dry food. The administration is arranging for supply of kerosene in the area.

Lalgarh comprises 10 gram panchayats. Of these seven are run by the Jharkhand Party and three by the CPI(M). The panchayat and samity members have been requested by the state administration to go back to the villages and try to convince the villagers to allow repair of roads.

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