Silence — not peace — ruled Lalgarh on Monday, the first day of the Communist Party of India (Maoist)-called two-day strike.
A source in the security forces, who did not wish to be identified, said the combined forces had decided to send the elite COBRA forces on a stealth march through the jungles to surprise the Maoists.
At the same time, the forces are maintaining an elaborate show of inactivity in and around Lalgarh, about 250 km southwest of Kolkata in West Midnapore district.
The combined central and state forces are on a mission to flush out the Maoists, who have been virtually ruling over a 1,000-sq-km area, comprising 1,100 villages in the area for the last eight months.
The COBRA forces are avoiding the traditional routes, spotting and destroying the Maoists’ jungle camps, thus separating Maoist militants from ordinary villagers.
Unconfirmed sources said a number of Maoists had already been killed near Bhimpur.
The Maoists on the first day of their strike also tried to blow up a small bridge near Pirakata late Sunday night. But their improvised explosive device could damage only two pillars of the bridge’s railings.
After the incident, a Border Security Force (BSF) company started patrolling the area, checking cars and sanitising the terrain.
The only visible activity among the 600-odd policemen camping near Lalgarh police station was Inspector General of Police (Administration) Zulfikar Hassan’s move into the danger zone beyond the police station with 10 commandos.
But he returned quickly after a strategy session with another senior officer. There was information that the Maoists were planting a landmine under a culvert.
Also, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Maidanpora range) Proven Kumar met the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) commandant on the deployment of the extra forces that would be arriving soon.