Tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato, who went underground after the anti-Maoist operation began in Lalgarh, on Wednesday dared the government to arrest him and said the administration was scared to do it.
"I have not fled anywhere. I am at Lalgarh only and if the administration wants to arrest me, let them come and arrest me," Mahato, the chief of People's Committee against Police Atrocities, which is widely believed to have links with the Maoists, said over phone.
The police, Mahato said, did not have the guts to arrest him because they knew that if he was arrested, the entire Lalgarh would erupt. He accused the government of not addressing the real problems faced by the people of Lalgarh who, he claimed, had been tortured and looked down upon during the last 30 years.
"The operation by the joint forces against the Maoists is only to divert attention of the media and people from the real issues affecting the people," he alleged.
He said the people's movement was being passed off as Maoist operation and the people of Lalgarh would continue their movement till their demands were met.
When reminded that state officials had proposed development schemes for the area, he argued, "The government is only trying to lure the people out of the movement. Once the movement ends, they will be tortured again."
Asked if there was any basis for his statement, Mahato said, "The police have so far arrested 40 of our leaders, including some top ones like Asmat Hansda, Kartik Deb Singh, Dipak Pati and Prabir Gorai. If they are so sympathetic towards our problems, then why are they arresting our members?"
He alleged, "The police areentering villages and torturing the people. They are arresting them without any reason. Do you think this is a sign of development in the area"?
Meanwhile, a bandh, called by the PCPA in Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore, was observed on Wednesday.
Shops remained closed and vehicles stayed off the roads. Government offices also remained closed for the day.
Mahato claimed that the success of the bandh proved that the people were with the movement. "We will continue our movement until the government stops this aggression and comes forward for negotiations," he said.