KOLKATA,18th November,2008: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said on Monday that the various separatist groups were aiming to disturb “peace and harmony” in the State by stoking violence and terror.
Pointing out to the agitations at Paschim Medinipur, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts, Mr. Bhattacharjee said: “If every other ethnic group starts demanding a State of their own, democracy in West Bengal be in peril.”He addressed an election rally in Howrah organised by the district’s Left Front committee in support of its candidates for the forthcoming polls to the Howrah Municipal Corporation.
“The tribal people in Paschim Medinipur district are being misled by the Maoists. But I thank a large section of them for having understood the reality and for detaching themselves from the movement,” he said. Mr. Bhattacharjee, however, added: “The Maoists will not sit idle.”
Leaders of various tribal groups – some of which are suspected to have the support of Maoists – protesting against alleged police excesses announced on Monday that their agitation, which has virtually cut off Lalgarh area of West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur from the rest of the district, will be intensified and will continue till their demands are met.
They met in the Lalgarh area and reiterated their demands that include the release of tribals arrested in connection with the blast that narrowly missed Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s convoy on November 2, a public apology from the district’s police superintendent for the excesses committed on the local people during raids in the villages and the withdrawal of police camps from the region.
The State government, however, claimed that five tribal groups that were part of the agitation have decided to withdraw from the protests. “They withdrew their agitation after a meeting with the local administration,” Raj Kanojia, the State’s Inspector-General of Police (Law and Order) said here.
Questions, however, remain on the impact the decision of these five groups will have on the overall agitation. Lalgarh has remained largely inaccessible for more than a week. Roads to the area have been dug up and trees felled to set up roadblocks at different places in the Jhargram sub-division, according to reports reaching here.
The State administration is treading a cautious line, avoiding any confrontation with the agitators. It is hoping that the situation can be resolved through discussions that are being initiated by the district authorities. The situation was reviewed at a meeting of senior State officials convened by the Chief Minister here.
In a significant development, an Additional Superintendent of Police of North 24 Parganas district, who was assigned to Lalgarh on special duty, has left the town, refusing to serve in an area where Maoists are active. He has threatened to resign if not relieved of his duties there.