Bengal: Naxal and Adivasi violent protest in Lalgarh; Law and order situation now under Central attack

Security forces begin ops to free Lalgarh from Maoists

 

18 Jun 2009,  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Ops-begin-to-free-Lalgarh-from-Maoists/articleshow/4670043.cms

 

Security forces have moved into the restive Lalgarh region to end the three-day siege of Maoists, who have gone on a rampage targeting CPI(M) cadres and leaders, destroying their homes and party offices and setting up barricades to block police entry.

 

Fifty villages in and around Lalgarh in West Midnapore district have been captured and declared a ‘free zone’ by Maoists.

 

Setting up their base camps around Lalgarh, central forces along with state police began closing in on Lalgarh early on Thursday morning. Four to five base camps at strategic locations have been set up with the objective not to concede any more areas to the Maoists. Maoists have formed a three-tier human shield with women and children in the vanguard, men behind them and armed naxals forming the rearguard, according to a senior police officer. Sources say the forces want to minimize casualties and will thus move slowly.

 

"Operation at Lalgarh has started this morning. The operation will be mainly done by the state police but we will be adequately assisted by the Central forces," West Bengal DGP Sujit Kumar Sarkar said.

 

Asked about the number of forces deployed, Sarkar said the details “cannot be divulged right now”.

 

"But there are adequate (state) forces to restore peace and normalcy in the area. The CRPF will give adequate back up and if needed, they will actively participate," he said over phone from Kolkata.

 

Agitating tribals of West Midnapore and adjoining areas have been protesting police "atrocities" on them in the wake of the landmine blast at Salboni which was believed to target the Chief Minister.

 

The tribals, numbering 2000 under the banner of People's Committee Against Police Atrocities, dug up roads amid reports that they were laying landmines to stop the security forces.

 

"We will try to shed minimum blood," Sarkar said adding I cannot tell you the exact timeframe (of the operation)."

 

Five hundred CRPF personnel, including 200 personnel of the elite COBRA trained in anti-Maoist operations, have been deployed to deal with the situation.

 

Conceding to pressure from the Centre, the state government had ordered the police to lead the operation with assistance from the central forces.

 

 

Reds vs Reds: Bengal in state of uncivil war

 

18 Jun 2009, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Reds-vs-Reds-Bengal-in-state-of-uncivil-war/articleshow/4668336.cms

 

LOSHASHULI(Jhargram): Sporadic gun battles and killings for control of villages in rural Bengal that began after CPM's electoral debacle threaten to erupt into a full-fledged war.

 

Maoist gunmen on Wednesday emerged from their stronghold in jungles along the Bengal-Jharkhand border for an audacious strike near Jhargram town, killing a local CPM leader and two activists in full public glare. As Trinamool Congress activists and Maoists have battled to capture turf from weakened CPM cadres, nearly 25 people have been killed, mostly CPM workers and supporters. At many places, the anti-CPM forces have been supported by locals who see the CPM as a receding force in the face of Mamata Banerjee's electoral surge.

 

The Naxalites want to create a "liberated zone" in the area and sensing a weakened state, seem to have moved in for the kill. A demoralized police force has vacated posts in many places and the fury of the attacks have stunned CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's administration.

 

Wednesday's sensational triple murder in a marketplace has left the entire area edgy and extended the Maoist threat to the doorstep of Jhargram town, one of the few bastions still held by CPM after its woeful show in the Lok Sabha polls.

 

Soon after the attack, members of the Maoist-led People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA) attacked houses of local CPM leaders in a repeat of Tuesday. Around 1.30pm, a mob ransacked the house of CPM's Nachipur local committee secretary Chandi Karan and set it on fire. The mob did not stop here. It attacked the house of CPM leader Anuj Pandey's brother and Harina gram panchayat member Dalim Pandey with shovels. The house of the CPM's local peasant leader Alok Rakshit, too, didn't escape mob fury.
 

The killings and the arson sent an already nervous administration groping for response. The state government pleaded for more Central forces over and above the 1,100 CRPF men deployed in Lalgarh, the site of pitched battles earlier this week.

 

Security analysts view the strikes as a strategic move by Maoists to expand their territory before central forces dig in. "It's an attempt to secure a bigger territory to keep securitymen engaged across a huge area. This will also give the guerrillas more escape routes in case they have to beat a retreat," an analyst said.

 

Eyewitnesses who saw the brutal murders said that six men in their mid-20s rode up in motorcycles to Bankshole and pumped bullets into Abhijit Mahato at point-blank range. Bankshole, a hamlet along the busy Kolkata-Jamshedpur highway, is 80km from Jamshedpur and 195km from Kolkata.

 

Abhijit, a 23-year-old student of Manikpara college and a key member of the Maoist Resistance Force, was sipping tea with friends Niladri Sekhar Mahato and Dibakar Mahato when he was shot dead. The resistance force locally referred to as RG party has been formed by CPM to counter Naxalites.

 

His friend Niladri, secretary of the resistance force and a known CPM supporter who is locally known as Tinku, tried to run away but the two gunmen chased and shot him, said owner of Tapas tea stall.

 

Anil Mahato, the 45-year-old CPM Banksole branch secretary, was buying fish when the first shots fired at Abhijit alerted him. Sensing danger, Anil took to his heels. The Maoists spotted him, chased and shot him from behind.

 

"Anil, Tinku and Abhijit didn't stand a chance. The gunmen took them completely by surprise. They could not anticipate anything like this since the area is a CPM stronghold," said Panchanan Mahato, an eyewitness who was close to Tapas tea stall.

 

Locals said the role of the CPM men in the arrest of a PCPA leader could have been the immediate provocation, but also hinted at a wider game plan to cleanse the zone of any opposition before Central forces arrive.

 

Disbanding the 200-member force that guards the stretch of highway from dusk to dawn against bandits will make it easier for the Maoists to move between the jungles on either side.

 

 

 

'Our aim is to break CPM shackles'

 

18 Jun 2009, 0307 hrs IST, Sukumar Mahato, TNN

 

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Our-aim-is-to-break-CPM-shackles/articleshow/4669155.cms

 

He is leading the Lalgarh offensive in West Midnapore district of West Bengal. Around 24 years old, he is a veteran in Maoist ranks, serving as zonal committee secretary of Communist Party of India (Maoist) for West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts. Sukumar Mahato speaks to firebrand Maoist Bikash about his party's plans:

 

What are your immediate plans?

 

Our aim is to break the shackles that the ruling CPM has put on the people of this area. For nearly two decades, the people have not reaped the so-called benefits of parliamentary democracy. Gradually, everything began to be controlled by CPM. Its leaders even had a say in marriages and other social and personal matters.

 

There are many leaders against whom FIRs are pending. The police have taken no action against them. We will punish them. Those who have spent money or used political connections to avoid justice will be tried by people's courts.

 

The government is preparing to strike in a major way. How will you counter this?

 

We have seen media reports in which government officials have spoken about bringing in Central forces, COBRA or Greyhound personnel. We are prepared for any strike. PCPA is with us. In Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore districts, we have set up gram committees in over 250 villages. We shall ultimately liberate Keshpur and Garbeta. The state cannot stop us by using force.

 

Why have you resorted to violence?

 

We were forced into taking up arms by the administration. When we had guns pointing at us, one can't expect us to respond with flower petals. Violence was started by CPM. We took up arms to counter this. Many of them are educated unemployed youths. Family members of CPM leaders have got jobs that were meant for them.

 

Why do you target the police? Many of the constables belong to poor families.

 

We have appealed to the police a number of times, not to blindly follow the diktats of CPM. We have asked the police not to torture poor villagers. There are some who heeded our appeal. Those who we targeted worked at the behest of CPM and paid a price.

 

What is your ultimate goal?

 

We want public funds to be used by the people's committee. They will be accountable for all development work done. We have already done a lot of development work in the villages. CPM talks a lot about land reforms. Anuj Pandey and his two brothers owned 40 bighas of land. We shall distribute such land among the poor.

 

 

Lalgarh in West Bengal Tense, as Tribals take control of the Area

  

Kolkata: The agitating tribals in Lalgarh in West Bengal continued to lay siege in the area and prevented the entry of police and para-military personnel. The CRPF personnel were not allowed to enter the area by over 2,000 angry tribals, who were protesting under the banner of People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA). The situation continued to be tense and volcanic in Lalgarh and Salboni in West Midnapore district.

 

The tribals are protesting against the alleged police atrocities on them after a landmine blast in Salboni in November 2008, which was targeted at Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and two former Union Ministers Ramvilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada.

 

The West Bengal government has urged the Centre to dispatch five more companies of CRPF to deal with the volcanic situation and recapture Lalgarh. A massive operation could be launched anytime to bring the area under government control.

 

The tribals backed by the Maoists, have launched an attack on top CPM leaders, forcing them to flee the area. At least 2,000 CPM workers have reportedly fled the area.

 

Even the police had to wind up their camps in Lalgarh, surrendering before the tribal agitation. A local CPM leader and two party supporters were killed by the Maoists on Wednesday in Bankasole near Lalgarh.

 

 

 

Law and order situation: Bengal now comes under Central attack

 

18 Jun 2009, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Law-and-order-situation-Bengal-now-comes-under-Central-attack/articleshow/4668390.cms

 

NEW DELHI: Just when its cadre are on the run in West Bengal with resurgent Maoists and Trinamool Congress having turned the table on them in

 

Lalgarh and Khejuri, CPM on Wednesday came under attack also from the Centre for not doing enough to tackle the deteriorating law and order situation.

 

In a strong riposte to the charge levelled by CPM's Sitaram Yechury that Centre was not helpful, home ministser P Chidambaram said that the state government ought to first deploy its forces to deal with the situation. "We (central forces) are there to assist the state police. The state police must commit its own forces. I don't know how many men they have committed in the area and what instructions they have been given. But in my talks with the chief minister, I told him that in our view the state police must be given a clear mandate and clear instructions," suggesting that the Marxist government is reluctant to take on the Maoist challenge.

 

Yechury had blamed the Centre for allowing the situation to worsen. He alleged that Maoists' move to acquire arms to achieve area domination was known to intelligence agencies.

 

Even though Yechury also appealed for co-ordiantion between the Centre and the state, the Maoist takeover of Lalgarh was unlikely to result in a consensus over how to deal with the threat. The fighting came a day ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. They are said to have a rapport, and on Wednesday the Prime Minister repeated his formulation about naxalites being the chief internal security threat. But whether the personal equation of the two leaders will help bridge the divide remained unclear because of the escalating conflict. The Prime Minister must have to reckon with his ally, Mamata Banerjee, an implacable foe of Marxists.

 

The Trinamool chief will be averse to the idea of organising relief for the Marxists and may get support from Congressmen in West Bengal. On Wednesday, the Left versus the Rest divide aggravated with an unsentimental Congress launching a full-scale assault on Marxists who find themselves beleaguered in their own bastion.

 

Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari called the Maoist violence a backlash against 32 years of cadre raj enforced by Marxists. "When you sow the wind you can only reap the whirlwind," he said.

 

He also echoed Chidambaram's charge of inaction against Marxists. "The Marxist regime cannot abdicate its responsibility; if it cannot run the government it should step down," said Tiwari while contending that the "cadre raj" was marked by excesses.

 

Caught in a pincer attack when their political fortunes appear to ebb, the Marxists were reversing their known positions, such as those on Centre's jurisdiction with regard to law and order which under the Constitution has been recognised as a responsibility of state governments. Marxists have not zealously supported this division of labour, but have been instrumental in fashioning the intellectual argument for limiting the role of the Centre on `law and order'. They have not been enamoured of central forces or intelligence agencies either.

 

On Wednesday, however, Yechury pushed for greater involvement of the Centre. "Centre and state should coordinate to get rid of the menace." He also recalled the Prime Minister's description of naxalites as the biggest threat.

 

 

Crackdown on Maoists begins in Lalgarh

 

Press Trust of India

 

Lalgarh (WB), June 18, 2009 http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?sectionName=HomePage&id=7416221b-4d00-49b6-9d1a-d91569ca4b45&Headline=Crackdown+on+Maoists+begins+in+Lalgarh

 

Security forces moved into the restive Lalgarh region  on Thursday to end the three-day siege of Maoists, who have gone on a rampage targeting CPI(M) cadres and leaders, destroying their homes and party offices and setting up barricades to block police entry.

 

"Operation at Lalgrah has started this morning. The operation will be mainly done by the state police but we will be adequately assisted by the Central forces," West Bengal Director General of Police Sujit Kumar Sarkar told PTI.

 

Asked about the number of forces deployed, Sarkar said the details cannot be divulged 'right now'. "But there are adequate (state) forces to restore peace and normalcy in the area. The CRPF will give adequate back up and if needed they will actively participate," he said over phone from Kolkata.

 

Agitating tribals of West Midnapore and adjoining areas have been protesting police "atrocities" on them in the wake of the landmine blast at Salboni which was believed to target the Chief Minister.

 

The tribals, numbering 2000 under the banner of People's Committee Against Police Atrocities, dug up roads amid reports that they were laying landmines to stop the security forces.

 

"We will try to shed minimum blood," Sarkar said adding I cannot tell you the exact timeframe (of the operation)." Five hundred CRPF personnel, including 200 personnel of the elite COBRA trained in anti-Maoist operations, have been deployed to deal with the situation.

 

 

Naxals dig in, Kolkata dithers over Lalgarh

 

Lalgarh / Kolkata, June 18, 2009

 

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?sectionName=HomePage&id=f16f423d-299a-48f3-b4c9-b0e1dff73d7d&ParentID=7416221b-4d00-49b6-9d1a-d91569ca4b45&Headline=Naxals+dig+in%2c+Kolkata+dithers+over+Lalgarh

 

Crackdown on Maoists begins in Lalgarh. Security forces moved into the restive Lalgarh region this morning to end the three-day siege of Maoists, who have gone on a rampage targeting CPI(M) cadres and leaders, destroying their homes and party offices and setting up barricades to block police entry. Agitating tribals, numbering 2000 under the banner of People's Committee Against Police Atrocities, dug up roads amid reports that they were laying landmines to stop the security forces.

 

As three of the five companies of Central paramilitary forces awaited instructions from an undecided, floundering Bengal government to enter the Maoist state within state in this corner of west Midnapore bordering Jharkhand, the flag bearers of India’s most powerful and long-lived extremist movement unleashed carnage yet again, killing three CPI(M) workers in a drive-by shooting and destroying homes of other party leaders.

 

The People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA), which is spearheading the anti-government movement and has turned this area of 1,000 square kilometers and 1,100 villages into the country’s second ‘liberated’ zone — after Dantewada in Chhatisgarh — is seeking to increase their sway from next week by laying siege to Goaltore and Salboni 50 km away from Lalgarh.

 

At 7.30 am today, six men on three motorcycles riddled with bullets three CPI(M) members who were drinking tea at a stall on the National Highway 6 in Bankshole village. One of these attacked tried to escape. The killers gave pursuit for a kilometer-and-a-half, and then gunned him down.

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has called the Maoists the “gravest challenge to India’s security”, told reporters on board Air India One today: “The home minister has good ideas and we will take effective action. Its [the Naxalite issue’s] seriousness is fully appreciated and recognised by our government.”

 

Although caught in the web of escalating violence, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led ruling CPI(M) was in a bind about how to respond. Bhattacharjee is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister next week.

 

On Wednesday, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram bluntly told the CM to reclaim areas dominated by the Maoists to control the deteriorating law and order situation. “The impression is that one side of the government is willing to take action, the other side of the government is worried about the consequences. Now, it is the judgement the CM must make. They must move the (security) forces to the affected areas and must reclaim that area which is now dominated by the Maoists.”

 

But how to act is the question the CPI(M) has not yet answered. While many of its senior leaders saw retaliatory attacks as the only option, others — still fresh from the party’s decimation in the LS polls after the violence unleashed by its cadre in Nandigram to aid land acquisition for industry alienated its loyal, peasant voters — said it could not afford more bloodshed.

 

That is unlikely to comfort Chandi Karan, 47, the party’s local committee secretary in Belatikli village. His house was burnt down today. “I have no savings,” he said. “I am out on the streets with my mother, wife and two daughters.”

 

Keeping mum seemed like the only option. “We have no plans to take revenge for our losses,” said another CPI(M) member Anuj Pandey, 49, whose house had been demolished by angry villagers. “Villagers are being misguided and threatened to act against us.” Riding on the back of allegations of misappropriation of money by CPI(M) leaders and of not implementing properly schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, disenchanted villagers have bought into the Maoists’ dream. They are now ready to act as human shields for the Maoists were the paramilitary forces or state police to come in.

 

Bengal’s home secretary, Ardhendu Sen, visited the West Midnapore district headquaters along with senior police officers this evening. “The state government is ready for action,” he said. But he did not say when and how.

 

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