The anti-Maoist joint operations by Central forces and police at restive Lalgarh in West Midnapore district were not a total success as no major arrest could be made or killings stopped, the West Bengal Government said on Thursday.
"Even though it brought success initially, the second phase of operation proved unsuccessful," West Bengal Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen told media-persons in Kolkata. Stating that there were 40 companies (4000 men) of Central force in Lalgarh currently, he said killings and abductions were continuing.
"Obviously the forces cannot be everywhere and the Maoists are taking that opportunity. In most cases Maoists are targeting CPI(M) party members," Sen said. Asked if the operations were a failure in strategy, Sen evaded a direct reply, saying, "Strategy is always flexible and subject to continuous updating. When we find it did not work, we have to change the strategy."
Asked why People's Committee Against Police Atrocities convener Chhatradhar Mahato, who heads the agitation by tribals in Lalgarh, could not be arrested, he replied, "Yes, Chhatradhar has not yet been arrested, but will be arrested." He was speaking after a meeting to review the Lalgarh operations which were launched with much fanfare of June 18.
The district magistrate and superintendent of police submitted their reports at the meeting. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had called for appropriate measures to tackle the situation, the Home Secretary said and this was discussed at the meeting, which was inconclusive and would continue on August 13.
The Central forces would, however, stay till normalcy was restored, Sen said. "We have urged the Centre to extend the stay of the Central forces till the situation normalises. We have not given any timeframe. We are yet to receive any feedback from the Centre," he said.
The state government had earlier urged the Centre for retention of the forces for another three months. Asked how long it would take to restore normalcy at Lalgarh, Sen said that it could take a minimum of two months. "We are reviewing the situation and appropriate steps will be taken within a timeframe," he said. On the occupation of school buildings by Central forces, he said the security forces have vacated some of the premises, while the others would be relocated.