Operations against Maoists in West Midnapore district on Monday entered a critical phase as security forces reached Kantapahari -- the last stronghold of the Maoist-backed tribal agitation.
"We did not meet with any resistance. We are halting here for the time being. The operation is now in a critical phase," said Deputy Inspector General of Criminal Investigation Department (Special Operations Group) Siddhinath Gupta.
The distance between Lalgarh and Kantapahari in the south and between Ramgarh to Kantapahari in the north is roughly five to six kilometers.
The forces, comprising 1600 men of the Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, State Armed Police and India Reserve Battalion, set out at approximately 7 am from Lalgarh and Ramgarh in a pincer movement, said a senior CRPF officer.
Nearly 180 men of the elite COBRA forces were accompanying the central forces and state police to flush out Maoist-infested areas, especially jungles. A helicopter had also been deployed to spot the Maoists.
"Taking Kantapahari is important for us, as it holds the key to the Maoist resistance in West Midnapore district," intelligence sources said.
Intelligence sources said that Kantapahari and the surrounding villages of Boropelia, Chottopelia and Dalilpur Chowk had a large concentration of Maoists, who were backing the tribals. The tribal unrest against police atrocities had started in these villages last November and then spread to other parts of the district.
Chhatradhar Mahato, the convenor of the Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities, hails from Boropelia.
The PCPA had started the agitation to protest police raids on their homes after Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then union ministers, Ramvilas Paswan and Jitindra Prasad, narrowly escaped a landmine blast at Salboni in November last year. The landmine blast was suspected to have been triggered by the Maoists.
The forces had secured Ramgarh, a village which held a large concentration of Maoists, in the second phase of the operation on Saturday. The operation by the security forces was launched first on June 19, when a human shield of tribals was demolished swiftly at Pirakata.
A day later, the security forces marched into Lalgarh police station, which had been under siege since November last year.