June 18, 2009

Three CPI(M) men killed, Maoists form three-tier human shield

Lalgarh (WB) (PTI): A local CPI (M) leader and two party supporters were gunned down on Wednesday in Bankasole near here where Maoists-backed tribals have put up a three-tier human shield even as the West Bengal government said Central forces were yet to be deployed in the area.

The CPI(M) men, who were having tea at a shop this morning after night-long patrol in the forest against the tribal agitators, were shot dead by six unidentified men who came on motorcycles, Jhargram SDO Ulaganathan said.

Amal Mahato, CPI(M)'s Shimli branch secretary, was part of a village resistance group which was assisting the police. Seven companies of paramilitary forces, including two of a Cobra battalion (a special force raised to combat Left- wing extremists) arrived at Jhargram and were standing by. "We are not in a hurry at present...we watching the situation," a senior police official told PTI at Jhargram.

In Kolkata, Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty said the central forces "have not been deployed at Lalgarh as yet. A senior police officer said Maoists armed with AK-47 assault rifles were patrolling the roads between Lalgarh and Belpahari. The Maoists have formed a three-tier human shield to prevent entry of forces into the area with women and children at the forefront.

"Normal life continued to be stalled at Lalgarh with high tension prevailing," Chakraborty told reporters after a high-level meeting to review the situation.Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee chaired the meeting with the chief secretary, Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen, DGP Sujit Sarkar and IGP (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia.

Officials said the Sen left for Midnapore immediately after the meeting to hold discussions with the district administration. A Union Home ministry official said in Delhi that the state administration was asked to deploy its own forces in full strength as "maintaining law and order is primarily the responsibility of the state government".

The Centre advised the state government to deploy the East Frontier Rifles, Special Armed Police and the regular armed police to deal with the situation. "The central paramilitary forces have been sent only to assist the state police," the official said. On the other hand, Maoist leader Bikash said the people would resist any attempt by the administration to send paramilitary forces into the area.

"We will resist the entry of the administration or the forces in every possible way," Bikash told PTI over phone. Lalgarh, which is approachable from four different directions by metalled and mud roads, have been cut-off at least from three sides with the road dug up at several places and over one hundred trees cut down to obstruct passage.

Meanwhile, according to a senior Left Front leader, Chief Minister Bhattacharjee told a Left Front meeting that a squad of 100 Maoists armed with sophisticated weapons with some trained at Chaibasa in neighbouring Jharkhand had entered Lalgarh and adjoining areas. Bhattacharjee said he got the information from the Jharkhand government and would take up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi on June 19, the leader, requesting anonymity, told PTI.

The agitation had started last November following police raids in villages to arrest suspects after Bhattacharjee and two Union ministers escaped a landmine explosion near Salboni while returning from the foundation laying ceremony of a steel plant project. The people had formed the Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities to launch the agitation against the administration and since then had not allowed any government officer or the police into the area.

They have been boycotting the administration while demanding that the police should tender a public apology for its 'excesses on the people'. Last week, the police withdrew from its camps in Lalgarh three of which were torched by the agitators. The tribals also set ablaze CPI(M) offices at Lalgarh and Belatikri.

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