The battle lines have been drawn. The final assault on the 45-sqkm Maoist-held “no-police zone” in Lalgarh, just 1 km east of Lalgarh police station where security forces are stationed, is likely to begin on Friday.
Inside the no-police zone, about 500 Maoists — including 150 who have reportedly sneaked into the area over the last few days — armed with guns, bows and arrows have taken up defensive positions.
Following a green signal from the state government, about 700 CRPF personnel stationed at the district headquarters of Midnapur town, 45 km away, arrived in Goaltor, 30 km west of the no-police zone, on Thursday and began preparations.
About 200 CRPF men have reached Sarenga, 55 km southwest of the Maoist-held area.
Through the day, senior officers of both the central and state police held a series of closed-door meetings at the recently-liberated Lalgarh police station to finalise the battle plan.
The security forces have sanitized all routes to the police station. A mine detecting team checked all culverts and bridges along the road, but could find no booby traps.
Groups of 15-20 armed security personnel could be seen standing guard at intervals of 500 metres. Each group was within eyesight of the next. An armoured mine detecting vehicle was also stationed there.
“We have given strict instructions to ensure that innocent villagers are not harassed,” said a senior official of the state police who is part of the strategy formation team on ground zero.
The state government wants to avoid a repetition of Nandigram, where 14 villagers died in police firing and sparked off a state-wide erosion of the Left Front’s support base.