A war is on the going in the forest-surrounding areas of three western districts of West Bengal—West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, where the Maoists have now ‘liberated’ more than 150 villages and have openly announced to go for few more.
The area is tensed, too tensed, as the state government, after gradually retreating from the forests towards the towns, now has decided to take some action. Three persons were killed during clashes throughout the day. Five companies of CRPF personnel have been sent to the area on Tuesday to control the damage and check fast advance of the Maoist-backed Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA). The home secretary, Ardhendu Sen, is visiting West Midnapore on Wednesday to discuss the situation and decide.
The administrations' worries are serious, as CPI(M) leaders are randomly being killed and their party offices, residences, as well as police camps are frequently being vandalised. But will the cops take the risk of opening fire to flush out the Maoists from their liberated zone? Will it be right to order police action to take hold of such an area where the people are actually at their height of enthusiasm in running an anti-police movement?
The Left government seems to be yet undecided. And there are reasons for being so. In fact, though the Maoists have gradually increased their base in these areas for more than last one decade, the actual public outburst against the state administration came following allegations of police atrocities against innocent villagers, mostly tribal, in the name of nailing Maoists.
After the landmine blast at Shalboni on November 2, last year, aimed at killing the chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the cops arrested a number of locals including retired school teachers, students and women for harbouring the Maoists. This fuelled the public anguish, working on which the Maoists succeeded in throwing the administration out of the area.
Now, it stands quite clear that the state cannot enter the area without opening fire on the locals, who seem to be ready to provide the first line of defense as human shield to the Maoist guerrillas. Another police firing would provide the Maoists to make politics with dead bodies.
The administration is also in dark about the true picture inside the ‘liberated zone,’ as the Maoists have successfully jammed all flows of information from their territory to outside by eliminating the prime sources and informers of the cops. Also, there might be numerous landmines planed here and there.
Though the government is trying to show patience, in order to avoid another Nandigram-like carnage, the Maoists are in no mood to relax their aggressing advance towards the Jhargram and Midnapore towns. A police action, still, may be on the cards. The government would have to order it with the risk of worsening the situation.