A 350-men-strong column of the West Bengal Police and Central paramilitary forces began the final assault on Thursday to flush out Maoists from the Lalgarh area in West Midnapore district, about 250 km southwest of Kolkata.
After eight months of virtual siege, the forces reached Pirakuli, 11 km from Lalgarh, on the first day by breaking human barricades with tear gas shells and cane charges. The battleground
But Chhatradhar Mahato, spokesman for People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, the Maoists’ public face, said: “Let them advance a couple of kilometres more and see the resistance.” Echoed Kishanji, second-in-command of the Communist Party of India (Maoist): “The police have no idea what awaits them.”
West Bengal Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen warned that more than 100 highly trained and heavily armed Maoist cadres might have entrenched themselves around Lalgarh.
In Delhi, a Home Ministry official, who did not want to be identified, said: “The security forces are moving very, very slowly and carefully on foot in view of reports that landmines may have been planted.”
Nearly 1,300 Central paramilitary personnel, including 200 commandos of the anti-Naxalite force, Cobra, and the Border Security Force are at the disposal of the state.
On Thursday, the contingent headed for Pirakata, 13 km from Lalgarh. The police was stopped at Malida, 4 km ahead of Pirakata, as locals raised a human wall and put tree trunks on the road. When they did not budge, the police had to cane-charge.
In Delhi, a West Bengal Congress leaders complained to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the CPI(M) unleashed violence against Congress and Trinamool Congress workers in Burdwan district.