December 12, 2008

Tribals protest Maoist activities in West Bengal

Midnapore, 10 December : Thousands of people Tuesday gathered at tribal-dominated Belpahari area of West Bengal to protest the activities of Maoist rebels in the region. The disgruntled villagers also decided to put up a united front against the Maoist guerrillas and vowed not to cooperate with the separatist forces, which were active in the violence-hit West Midnapore district.

"Nearly 10,000 people, mostly tribals, gathered at Bhulabheda area of Belpahari to protest against the growing Maoist terror in the district. They held a public meeting where many tribal representatives said they would not give any food and shelter to the Maoist rebels," West Midnapore police superintendent R.K. Singh told newspersons.

"The villagers openly made it clear that they will chase the Maoists and also help the police arrest them. They said they would not hesitate to kill these extremist elements, if needed," he said. The public meeting at Belpahari was jointly called by tribal organisations Bharat-Jakat-Majhi-Marwa organisation and Jowan-Gaonwa organisation. Villagers from various parts of the district participated in the rally with improvised weapons and drums and demonstrated in front of the makeshift podium as part of their token protest against the Maoist atrocities.

"The tribals have admitted that they're misled by the Maoist leaders into standing up against the district administration and the police," said Singh. Belpahari, a forest area under the Dama Hills, is about 45 km from Jhargram town.

Trouble erupted in West Midnapore district after the district police allegedly arrested some school students and heckled tribal women after an attempted landmine ambush of the convoy of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Bhadutala near Salboni last month. Union ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada were also in the convoy. Four policemen were injured in the blast.

Participating in a violent protest, the tribals dug up metalled roads and placed large tree trunks across them, virtually cutting off the region from the rest of the district. The region witnessed a series of protests, as the villagers had demanded a public apology from the district police for the alleged excesses committed against them during the course of investigation into the landmine blast.

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