June 20, 2009

Security forces begin final push to end Lalgarh seige

Lalgarh, June 19: After tasting some success in breaking through ‘human shields’ at several places en route to Lalgarh, WB police and other security forces on Friday resumed their operation to clear out the area of Maoists. About nine companies of security forces led by the state police forces and backed by CRPF men resumed ‘Operation Lalgarh’ early morning today – to gain control of the area which has been dubbed as a free zone by the Left ultras. Cops fearing landmine or claymore mines are employing anti-mine vehicles to sanitise the area as the forces begin moving through the forest towards the ground zero – where the Maoists are holed up. It was precisely this reason that the operation was halted for the night, yesterday, as the forces did not want to cross the Jhitka jungle beyond Pirrakula at night fearing the mines.

Helicopters are also being seen hovering over the area; the choppers have also dropped some leaflets, asking people not to sympathise with the rebels. Police said there are nearly 100 blockades that the securitymen would have to breakthrough en route to Lalgarh. Most residents of the villages fled their homes before the arrival of the security forces. The West Bengal government has already rejected negotiations with Maoists saying "so long there is violence and obstruction, there cannot be any discussion". Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhatacharjee said his government was ready to hold talks with tribals on their grievances, and appealed to the Lalgarh villagers not to get provoked by Maoist rebels and not let themselves be used as human shields by the Left radicals. State home secretary Ardhendu Sen said doors for discussions were open, but first the violence needed to stop. He said similar operations will also be launched in Bankura and Purulia districts. "We will make all the 18 police stations in the three Maoist affected districts free of the rebels". Yesterday, the forces came up against a 'human wall' at Malida, as hundreds of tribals carrying traditional weapons like bows and arrows, shovels, pickaxes and canes blocked the way by felling big trees on the road as they shouted slogans like "Inqilab Zindabad" and "Maoism zindabad". The police started baton charging and lobbing tear gas shells, and succeeded in dispersing the protesters. Two rebels as well as a lensman accompanying the security forces were injured, eyewitnesses said, but police did not confirm the news. The police raided some houses in the vicinity and detained a few people before resuming their march. Clashes between security personnels and Maoists were reported from Doima, Raj Kanojia Bankura. Maoist guerrillas have been active in organising a tribal movement alongside a group called the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA). The ultras have demanded that the Centre and state government apologise to the tribal people of Lalgarh if they wanted a peaceful and amicable resolution to the stand-off. "The Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) and Home Minister (P Chidambaram) have started a psychological warfare by amassing huge forces. If they start the operations, we will resist with the help of the people who are with us," CPI-Maoist politburo member Kishanjee said over phone. He said the rebel group has decided to call for a two-day shutdown beginning Monday in West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar. Lalgarh has been on the boil since last November when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada. Maoists have been active in the three western districts of the state - West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. They also backed the Trinamool-sponsored movement against the state government's bid to establish a chemical hub at Nandigram in East Midnapore district.

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