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Crackdown on Maoists begins in Lalgarh

June 18, 2009 11:37 IST

Security forces on Thursday,moved into the restive Lalgarh region to end the three-day siege of Maoists, who have gone on a rampage targeting Communist Party of India-Marxist cadres and leaders, destroying their homes and party offices and setting up barricades to block police entry. "The Operation at Lalgrah has started on Thursday 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 Central Reserve Police Force will give adequate back up and if needed they will actively participate," he said over the 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 CM. 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.

A visiting PTI correspondent saw four trucks of central and state police force personnel entering Lalgrah through Pirakata, which links the place to Midnapore, in the morning hours. The other three entry points to Lalgrah through Binpur, Dohijhuri and Bherua have been blocked by felling trees and digging up roads. The area presented a deserted look, with most shops and business establishments closed. Only a few people were seen out of their homes.

The Maoists had taken over the area, a former Marxist bastion, after driving away the police on Monday. Eight CPI-M personnel have been killed in the area in the last one week and four others are missing. High-level police officials, including Director General (Coordination) Bhupinder Singh and Deputy Inspector General (Special Operations Group) Siddhinath Gupta were in Lalgarh to supervise the action.

The operation was launched a day after Home Minister P Chidamabaram sent a blunt message to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee that a clear mandate should be given to the security forces to reclaim areas dominated by Maoists in violence-hit West Midnapore and its adjoining areas and deal with 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," he said.

Meanwhile, the Maoists in Lalgarh have called for a two-day Bandh in Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh on June 22-23, to protest against police atrocities.

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