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We are still in Lalgarh, say tribal leaders
Published on 1 Jul. 2009 12:01 AM IST
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Denying that he has fled from Lalgarh, agitating tribal leader Chattradhar Mahato Tuesday said he was still in this troubled area of West Bengal “with my people”. “I am still staying in Lalgarh and there is no question of fleeing this region as I have committed no crime,” said Mahato, chief of People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), which spearheaded the establishment of a virtual “free zone” in the area seven months back. He and another PCAPA leader were speaking to a private Bengali television channel. “There’s no question of fleeing Lalgarh. I was very much with the people and will continue to be with them. I started a democratic movement against the police atrocities in Lalgarh,” Mahato said in the telephonic interview to Star Ananda. He said the state government was trying to sully his image by falsely linking him with the Maoist guerrillas. “They are trying to prove me a Maoist, which I am not,” he added. The security forces and the state government earlier said that PCAPA frontrunner Mahato, Sidhu Soren and a few top ranking Maoist leaders like Koteswar Rao allias Kishanji and Bikash had fled the troubled region since a joint security operation of central paramilitary troopers and state police was launched June 18 in the area, 200 km west of the state capital Kolkata. Police said Mahato had fled and taken shelter in Bankura district, Soren at West Midnapore’s Shalboni, while the two other Maoist big guns relocated to neighbouring Jharkhand. “I am now in the Kantapahari area. Why should I flee when I’ve not done anything wrong? We just raised our voice against the police excesses which is our democratic right,” Soren also told the television channel. “Our movement can’t be stopped unless they (the forces) stop torturing our women and children unnecessarily. We’re now preparing a plan for our future course of action,” he said. Lalgarh has been on the boil since November last year when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and two other central ministers - Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada. Alleging police atrocities after the blast, irate tribals, backed by Maoists, launched an agitation cutting off the area from the rest of West Midnapore district and virtually taking over the role of governance by driving out the civil administration. Maoists are active in areas under 21 police stations in the state’s three western districts - West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. Opposition stage walkout in Assembly over Lalgarh Opposition Trinamool Congress legislators and the lone SUCI MLA in the West Bengal Assembly on Tuesday staged a walkout after the Speaker disallowed their motion seeking adjournment of the House to discuss the Lalgarh situation. Trinamool Congress’ ally Congress did not join the walkout which took place after the question hour was over, but they separately raised the issue during the mention period with the CLP leader Manas Bhuniya saying ‘the state police is torturing the people, including women, mercilessly in Lalgarh’. Disallowing the adjournment motion, the notice for which was given by the Leader of the Opposition, Partha Chatterjee, some other Trinamool MLAs and SUCI legislator D P Sarkar, Speaker H A Halim said it could be debated in the usual course of business and when budgets of the concerned departments were taken up. In the adjournment notice, which was allowed to be read out, the Trinamool Congress and SUCI said, “The state government has adopted a fascist policy to isolate the Adivasis in the vast areas of Jangalmahal (Lalgarh and adjoining areas) by branding them as Maoists.” “This was reprehensible,” the motion, read out by the chief whip of Trinamool Congress Legislature Party, Ashok Deb, said. It also alleged that the ruling party with the help of police was out to recapture Lalgarh in the name of operation against Maoists and that ‘limitless torture’ of people, including women, were going on in Lalgarh. Later, criticising the Speaker’s decision, Chatterjee said his party wanted a detailed discussion on what actually was going on in Lalgarh, but the Chair denied the opportunity. The Left Front government had neglected the tribals for over 32 years of its rule with no food, water and other basic needs and the agitation in Lalgarh was the outburst of the ‘accumulated grievances’ of the people, he alleged. “The people there subsist by eating ants and leaves,” he said. He pointed out that though 11 days had elapsed since the joint operations began, no Maoist could be arrested yet in Lalgarh and adjoining areas.

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