Security forces led by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) regained state control over a seven-kilometre stretch from Lalgarh town as they advanced northwards towards Ramgarh, the last Maoist bastion in Bengal’s West Midnapore district on Friday.
The district, in the southern tip of the state, is about 250 km southwest of Kolkata.
It was a warlike situation on Friday as the security forces exchanged gunfire with Maoists amid two landmine blasts. No one was injured in the blasts.
The security forces numbering about 1,800 were led by over 600 CRPF men, who were followed by about 200 men from the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB). The assault team was backed by about 1,000 men from the State Armed Police.
The assault started from Pingboni village near Goaltore, 14 km from Lalagarh town, where the IRB had come under a heavy attack by the Maoists two days ago.
But this time, the security forces moved through the fields and jungles on both flanks of the road connecting Pingboni with Ramgarh, upsetting the Maoist plan to attack the forces with landmines planted along the asphalt road.
Siddhinath Gupta, inspector general of police (CID) and chief of the Special Operations Group, who was leading the assault, said, “The Maoists blasted landmines and opened fire on us and we had to respond with retaliatory fire. At the end of the day, we managed to reach Kadashol and Mahultola. The operation on the rest of the stretch till Ramgarh will be conducted tomorrow.”
Contrary to apprehensions, villagers did not confront the security forces when they moved in to regain the Maoist-dominated areas. After the assault was over, there was a palpable sense of relief among the villagers, many of who offered water and fruits to the CRPF jawans at the forefront of the operation.
Said Madhu Patra, “After eight months, we can finally heave a sigh of relief. Our days of torment are over and we can now go back to our normal lives. We feel liberated.”