Amid allegations that security forces were ransacking homes and even throwing away food, villagers in this trouble zone where operations to flush out Maoists have been on for a week said on Wednesday they would continue to put up resistance.
"Lot of people have fled the villages. But some have decided to stay back in their houses. And they feel they will suffer at the hands of the forces whether they remain in the villages or not, so they have chosen to die resisting the forces," Sidhu Soren of the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) said.
Another PCAPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato indicated that the agitators would lie low for some time and resume their movement once the central forces comprising the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Border Security Force (BSF) leave.
"We know we can't resist such a massive force. But the central forces will not stay for ever. Once they leave, we will resume our agitation in the scale we did last November," Mahato told reporters.
Alleging that the forces were committing atrocities against innocent villagers, including women and children, ransacking houses and even throwing away food, Mahato said thousands of villagers have fled their homes fearing torture.
The PCAPA, backed by the Maoists, had since last November established virtual control over 42 villages in Lalgarh, 200 km west of the state capital Kolkata, and surrounding areas by driving away the civil and police administration.
But the combined forces of the centre and the West Bengal government have re-established the writ of the state in more than half of these villages since the operation was launched on June 18.
On Tuesday night, Communist Party of India-Maoist spokesperson Gour Chakraborty was arrested in Kolkata, a day after the organisation was banned by the union government. Till now, 21 Maoists, including top ranking leaders, have been arrested.
Before he was arrested, Chakraborty had told the media that the Maoists were willing to talk to the central and state government, but only in the presence of anti-Left Front intellectuals like filmmaker Aparna Sen, who had visited Lalgarh on Sunday.
The state cabinet has decided to set up a university named after three tribal heroes - Sidhu, Kanhu and Birsa Munda - in the neighbouring districts where the tribal people have a strong presence. The Sidhu Kanhu Birsa University will have campuses in Purulia and Bankura districts.
"There will be lot of scope for higher studies in Santhali in the university. We will prepare a bill and present it in the assembly soon," Higher Education Minister Sudarshan Chakraborty told reporters in Kolkata.
Lalgarh has been on the boil since last November when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada.
Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, angry tribals backed by Maoists launched an agitation virtually cutting off the area from the rest of West Midnapore district.
The Left radicals torched police camps, set ablaze offices of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and drove out the civil administration to establish a virtual "free zone" in the enclave of West Midnapore district.
The Maoists have been active in three backward districts - Purulia, West Midnapore and Bankura - in the western part of the state.