Hinting at a state within a state, tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato said his organisation could build infrastructure in just eight months in restive Lalgarh, which the state government could not do in 32 years. "If the state government had done 10 per cent of the work we did, the situation would have been different," Mahato, Convenor of the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) told PTI.
"We have laid at least 50 km of gravel path, dug tanks and tube wells and revived irrigation canals with the help of villagers," he said. Mahato claimed the PCAPA built a 60-feet-deep reservoir at Barapelia, where its headquarters is situated, and planned to revive a canal for irrigation.
A health centre with a doctor was also functioning at Kantapahari, he said. Though the government built the road to Midnapore town, all link roads were constructed by the PCAPA, he said, claiming that this saved villagers from walking for miles through forests.
Maoists are on the rampage in Lalgarh, in Midnapore district of West Bengal bordering Orissa, targetting CPM cadres and party offices protesting against police "atrocities".
"All this was achieved in eight months. What is the use of an administration which is paralysed and corrupt?" Mahato questioned justifying the "people's movement". He said, "We are against violence, but it is the outburst of the people who have been suffering for the last 32 years."
Lalgarh along with police station areas of Belpahari, Ramgarh, Jamboni, Salboni and Goyaltor have literally become a free-zone with nearly two lakh residents across 1,100 villages defying the rule of law and not paying taxes. The influence of PCAPA which started with 22 villages in November, now extends to 47 villages. Local Maoist action squad leader Bikash, who is backing the tribals, said, "After a lot of struggle we have made this area a free zone and we will not give it up."Asked about the state government's operations, which began today, he said, "Let them come."
The agitation had started last November following police raids in villages to arrest suspects after Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and two Union ministers escaped a landmine explosion near Salboni while returning from the foundation laying ceremony of a steel plant project.
The villagers had formed the PCAPA to launch the agitation against the administration and since then had not allowed any government officer or the police into the area.