Despite the Union home ministry’s claim on Thursday that Lalgarh was no longer a Maoist bastion, the area seemed — even a day before Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s visit — as much under rebel control as it was around eight months ago.
The Maoist-dominated hamlet in West Midnapore district, 170 km west of Kolkata, was tense. Because the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) proved beyond doubt that it was never ousted from the area.
On Saturday afternoon, the Maoist-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) gave a call for a shutdown on Sunday across Jangal Mahal — a stretch of dense forest covering West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts — soon after a landmine blast rocked Lalgarh.
The committee was formed soon after police operation in the area following a landmine attack on Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s convoy in November 2008. The PCAPA went underground last year after police picked up its spokesman, Chhatradhar Mahato.
“The bandh (shutdown) is against Chidambaram’s visit to Lalgarh. It’s also against the torture by the security forces and in demand of withdrawing the forces,” PCAPA central committee member Manoj Mahato.
From April 5, Lalgarh Committee, another Maoist-backed outfit, will impose an indefinite road blockade across the region.
Saturday’s blast only ripped open a part of the road leading to Lalgarh, but it jolted the combined forces of the state police and the central paramilitary.
The blast was 5 km from Lalgarh police station, adjacent to which is the helipad where Chidambaram is expected to land. On the other side of the road, a pandal has been erected inside a freshly painted police camp, where Chidambaram is expected to meet officials.
Although the blast did not have much of an impact, injuring only one CRPF jawan, the explosion could be heard from Lalgarh police station, causing quite a flutter within the administration.