June 17, 2009

Maoist threat looms over Bengal

16 Jun 2009, 1249 hrs IST, Times Now

Maoists are having a free run barely a hundred kilometres from Kolkata in Lalgarh. The area has now become out of bounds for law-enforcement personnel and the once CPM bastion is now at the mercy of the Maoists as they unleash terror, tearing down party and police establishments. The TIMES NOW team travelled to this Maoist stronghold to capture some chilling footage and get a ground report.

The team’s path was first blocked by young and old in the Maoist ‘free zone’ near Lalgarh, and had to plead with the villagers before being allowed to go further. We were surprised to find people of Dharampur village in Midnapore district engaged in a wild celebration, looking on as the house of a CPM leader was being demolished.

The outburst of anger and triumph was unprecedented. People had gathered with crude arms and were singing and dancing in celebration after having forced out all the CPM leaders and their cadres out of the village. The move added more territory to their so-called ‘free zone’.

As the TIMES NOW team further into the village we found more war-like symbols of victory – CPI(M) symbols smashed to the ground and a young man trying to bring down the roof of a house. A more chilling sight for that of an unclaimed dead body - of a CPIM leader - lying outside the CPI(M) party office for the past three or four days. The office itself had been set on fire by angry villagers.

Of course this little rebellion is backed by the Maoists, who may not stand out in the crowds but are certainly armed to the teeth.

"We are in the forefront of the people's movement here. Buddadeb (Bhattacharya) may deny it but you can see,” Bikas, a Maoist activist says.

With the CPIM office on fire and their cadres nowhere in sight, it’s a sign that the Maoists are slowly by steadily taking control.

Maoist attacks on Bengal police

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/06/16 10:34:10 GMT

Maoist rebels in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal have attacked police camps and demolished the house of a local communist leader.

The bodies of four workers of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) were recovered in the restive jungle region of Lalgarh.

A further four are missing. Police say they may have been killed or kidnapped.

Rebels have taken almost total control of Lalgargh in West Midnapore district since last November, reports say.

About 6,000 people have been killed in violence linked to Maoist rebels in India over the past 20 years.

They are active in states across east and central India - the so-called "red corridor". Last week more than 20 police were killed in the eastern state of Jharkand.

Police 'non-existent'

In the latest incident, rebels ransacked and torched at least three police camps after entering the Dharampur area of Lalgarh on Monday.

They also destroyed the house of a local communist leader who managed to flee his home, reports said.

The rebels have also made their presence felt in around 170 villages in Lalgarh, threatening supporters of the state's ruling communist party and warning them to leave the area, reports said.

The district has experienced unrest for a number of months.

Tribal people in Lalgarh launched violent protests and strikes against the police in the area last November.

The protests came shortly after former federal minister Ram Bilas Paswan narrowly escaped a landmine explosion set off by suspected Maoist rebels.

The BBC's Amitabha Bhattasali says that Lalgarh has remained under almost total control of the Maoists ever since then, with the police and administration virtually non-existent there.

At that time a serving police officer in West Bengal caused controversy by refusing to command a camp in district. He is reported to have told colleagues he would rather resign than risk his life.

Analysts say that Maoists operate in 182 districts in India, including some in West Bengal.

The rebels say they represent the rights of landless farmhands and tribal communities. They have attacked police outposts and enforced strikes in India's mineral heartland.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the Maoist movement the "biggest threat to India's national security".

Maoists take over part of India's West Bengal state

South Asia News

Jun 16, 2009, 12:16 GMT

New Delhi - A Maoist-backed organization of local tribal people has virtually taken over Lalgarh, an area of India's eastern West Bengal state, and set fire to police camps and offices of the ruling party, news reports said Tuesday.

Hundreds of supporters of the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA) set fire to police camps in the villages of Salboni, Rangarh and Dharampur in the early hours of Monday, the Indian Express newspaper reported.

They also demolished offices of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), a leading partner in West Bengal's ruling leftist coalition.

The locals were accompanied by armed cadres of the CPI-M, which is spearheading the rebellion in the area.

Lalgarh town and adjoining villages in West Midnapore district have seen widespread unrest by local tribes since November when the Maoists supported the formation of the PCPA to organize protests against alleged police atrocities.

Barely 200 kilometres north-west of the state capital Kolkata, Lalgarh has been a virtual no-go area for the local administration since late 2008 and the media has largely been barred.

On Monday, the media was allowed in and television channels showed drumming, dancing villagers celebrating.

PCPA leaders were quoted as saying that they were not responsible for the arson or demolitions but that it was a spontaneous expression of anger.

Most local officeholders of the CPI-M as well as police fled the area before the attacks took place.

At least three CPI-M cadres were killed during the violence and two more were missing, PTI news agency reported.

Three police posts were ransacked and set on fire along with a local office of the CPI-M.

Television channels filmed PCPA members demolishing a new two-storey house belonging to a local CPI-M leader on Monday.

After the demolition, a leader of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, identified as Bikash, gave a press briefing with his back to the camera and an AK-47 rifle slung across his shoulder.

'The ground here is already ready and waiting for us. A child is about to be born and we are playing the role of the nurse who will deliver it,' he said.

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya called a meeting of top officials to discuss future action in Lalgarh.

Bhattacharya narrowly escaped a landmine blast triggered by the Maoists when he was passing through the area in November 2008, following which, locals allege, the police atrocities increased with illegal detentions and torture.

Maoist guerrillas who operate in 13 Indian states say they are fighting for the rights of the landless, poor and tribal people.

They usually target security personnel and government installations.

According to unofficial estimates, at least 400 people, including rebels, have been killed in Maoist violence since January 2009.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as one of the gravest internal security threats facing India.

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