The stronghold of the Maoists in West Bengal has fallen, and fallen without resistance to the ruling party in the state nearly two months after the CPI(M) counteroffensive began.
CPI(M) members and supporters trooped into Lalgarh (160 km west of Kolkata) on Sunday, 16 months after their party office was burnt down by a Maoist mob on June 16, 2009, turning the hamlet into one of the ultra-Left sanctuaries of the country.
Unopposed, the CPI(M) supporters marched 11 km from Dharampur to Lalgarh before hoisting the party flag.
The CPI(M)’s bid to recapture Lalgarh has been almost a two-month-old process that came to a halt at Dharampur on September 2.
West Midnapore Superintendent of Police Manoj Verma said: “We are keeping a close watch on the situation.”
“Many young persons of this area have adopted an incorrect path. We appeal to them to return to the mainstream,” said Anuj Pandey, Binpur zonal committee secretary, whose house the ultras burnt down in June last year.
Pandey and District Secretariat Member Satyen Maiti led the CPI(M) parade.
Trinamool MP Subhendu Adhikari said: “The CPI(M) has taken refuge behind the combined (Centre-state) forces to make the token entry. But they will be forced to close the party office after dusting it.”
The combined forces were deployed at rebel strongholds on Sunday because there were fears of Maoist attacks.
Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee has made a strong pitch for withdrawing the Centre-state combined forces in the state.
Among those who returned was Fullara Mondal, a CPI(M) district committee member from Netai village. She left the area in May 2009.
“I’m still unsure whether I’ll be able to enter my village today,” she told HT.