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Forces capture Maoist hub Katapahari
LALGARH (WEST BENGAL), JUN 29 (IANS):
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Published on 29 Jun. 2009 11:10 PM IST
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Specialised anti-Maoist commandos were on the prowl in the jungles for the elusive guerrillas after security forces Monday reclaimed the rebel den of Kantapahari and entered the headquarters of protesting tribals around this area of West Bengal. The rebels tried to resist by exchanging fire with the troops and burst several landmines, but beat a hasty retreat against the overwhelmingly superior firepower of the huge contingent of central paramilitary troopers and West Bengal armed police, who have now decisively established their presence in the area - 200 km west of state capital Kolkata. This also marked the return of the writ of the state in an arc surrounding Lalgarh to complete the first phase of operations launched June 18 to flush out Maoists, who had virtually made the area a “free zone” for the last seven months alongside their associates People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) by torching police camps and driving out the civil administration. But as the forces battled the rebels on the ground, the political leadership continued to play their games in Kolkata, with Trinamool Congress chief and Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee demanding that the operation be stopped. She alleged that hoodlums owing allegiance to the state’s ruling communists were entering the area alongside the security personnel to torture political opponents. “The hardcore Maoists have all fled through Sarenga in Bankura district. The ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has let them slip out. The entire thing is a drama enacted by the CPI-M who now wants to recapture lost ground with the hoodlums,” Banerjee told the media. But the 12th day of the security operation clearly belonged to the forces, who Monday morning marched from two flanks using helicopter surveillance to push out the Maoists from two of their strongholds where the police had seldom entered during the last seven months. One group of security personnel moved from Lalgarh in the south and retook Kantapahari, while other troopers moved from Ramgarh in the north to march into Barapelia village - the hub of the PCAPA. “The two security teams later met at Kantapahari and established a base camp,” Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia said in Kolkata. The entire leadership of the PCAPA, including its supremo Chhatradhar Mahato, have gone underground and police have launched a manhunt to track them down. A senior police officer said on condition of anonymity that top Maoist leaders like Koteshawar Rao and Bikash seemed to have fled the area, but the CRPF’s elite unit Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) were searching for the rebels form “tree to tree and bush to bush” in the jungles. “Villagers have helped and cooperated with us. And we hope we will get cooperation from them in the coming days also,” Siddhinath Gupta, the state police’s Deputy Inspector General (Operations) of the Criminal Investigation Department, who led the forces from Ramgarh, told reporters at Kantapahari. State police Deputy Inspector General (Midnapore Range) Praveen Kumar. Who headed the team from Lalgarh, described the operation as a “big success”, but said: “This is only a part of the operation which will continue. We will ensure restoration of normalcy so that development work can begin in full steam.” Asked about the forces’ inability to nab Mahato or other Maoist leaders at Kantapahari or Barapalia, he replied: “They are mobile targets. We are also mobile.” Soon after the security forces met at Kantapahari, Maoists burst landmines and fired upon security men at Sijua village. West Midnapore police superintendent Manoj Verma confirmed the incident saying: “Police action is on.” The security forces found weapons like bows and arrows, spears as well as cooked food and Maoist posters at the nearby Mohultoli jungles, proof that the rebels had taken shelter there. The PCAPA and the Maoists had since last November established virtual control over 42 villages in Lalgarh and surrounding areas where hundreds of Leftist extremists had virtually taken over the role of the state administration. Lalgarh has been on the boil since November when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada. Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, angry tribals backed by Maoists launched an agitation, virtually cutting off the area from the rest of West Midnapore district. Maoists are active in areas under 21 police stations in the state’s three western districts - West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. Lalgarh detenus not to be charged under tough laws West Bengal’s ruling Left Front (LF) Monday decided that the people arrested during Lalgarh operation will be charged under the sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and not as per the more stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The state government also decided that the UAPA would not be under the police jurisdiction and would only be implemented after the permission of the state home secretary. The decisions were taken by the state cabinet’s core committee that met here. “Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has assured the core committee members that none of the 22 people arrested so far during the joint operation in Lalgarh will be charged under the UAPA. They have been arrested under sections of the IPC,” state PWD Minister and member of the core committee Kshiti Goswami told reporters after the meeting. “The chief minister has informed us that the act was passed in parliament in 2008. The ban on the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has been imposed by the centre under the act. So the state government cannot say no to the act.” According to sources, the government has also taken a decision to form a team, comprising five principal secretaries of different departments of the state government, which will visit Lalgarh to monitor the situation. The team would stay there in the troubled zone and interact with the villagers. On the basis of the team’s findings, the government will prepare a blueprint of its further developmental activities in the violence-scarred region.

 
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