June 25, 2009

Ceasefire talk a time-buying stunt, Lalgarh operation to go on: Centre

NEW DELHI: Even as some CPI(Maoist) leaders in West Bengal on Tuesday sent media feelers for a ceasefire to end the Lalgarh impasse, the Centre rejected the “peace offer” as a “diversionary” ploy by the Maoists to escape the onslaught by the security forces.

Stating that the Maoists had made no formal offer for a suspension of operations to either the Centre or the West Bengal government, senior MHA officials insisted that the counter-operations in Lalgarh and its surrounding areas would be taken to its logical end.

According to an official, there was no question of frittering away the gains made by the security forces in the Lalgarh operation as the Maoists were virtually on the run. The counter-operations, the official added, would continue until the last of the Maoists have been flushed out.

In any case, the latest peace offer — in which CPI(Maoist) has made the ceasefire conditional to withdrawal of security forces from Lalgarh — is being viewed by the security establishment as only a publicity and time-gaining stunt as the Maoist cadres on the ground continued to unleash violence on the second day of the 48-hour bandh called by them in five states.

Naxalites carried out a string of attacks, opening fire on the Lakhisarai district court premises in Bihar to free jailed comrades, blowing up a panchayat office and community centre in Jharkhand and Bihar respectively, and setting fire to CPM offices in West Bengal.

The attacks, which injured several people, including the district development commissioner of Lakhisarai, came a day after the Centre separately banned CPI(Maoist) as a terrorist outfit under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Though the West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Tuesday defied the CPM line to “accept” the ban, he was ambiguous on how the state government would go about implementing the same. The ambiguity only got worse with CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat later stating that the West Bengal government had no intention of banning the CPI(Maoist).

Ban or no ban, the Maoists continued to defy the alert sounded across Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa to enforce their 48-hour bandh. The most daring strike was on the Lakhisarai district court premises in Bihar, aimed essentially at freeing four of their comrades who were to be produced in the court. A group of motorcycle-borne, armed Naxalites descended on the court premises and opened fire, targeting a police van carrying the four detained Naxalites.

The firing injured the district development commissioner Rajiv Ranjan Sinha, besides three policemen. Mr Sinha is now reportedly out of danger.

As confusion prevailed, the Maoists whisked away the four undertrials, including the Ranchi zonal commander Ghaskar Marandi. According to agency reports from Bihar, the Maoists also attacked the district magistrate’s office and fired at the commoners as they retreated into the jungles with the freed comrades.

In separate incidents, the Maoists also blew up a community centre and mobile phone tower in Bihar. A panchayat building in Jharkhand was also witness to an explosion.

The Left-wing extremists did not spare the security forces in Lalgarh either, as they attempted to disrupt the supply lines by detonating a landmine at Chara village between Midnapore and Kirakata. This apart, the Maoists torched CPI(M)’s offices across the Naxalite-infested districts of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore.

In West Midnapore’s Jhargram area and Purulia’s Burrabazar, suspected guerrillas set afire and ransacked CPI(M) party offices. In both cases, the miscreants left raising Maoists slogans.

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