For once, Mamata Banerjee did not — or could not — keep her word, since Lalgarh is still a scary thought to the main opposition party in West Bengal.
Despite a scheduled rally, the Trinamool Congress chief stayed away from Lalgarh, 5 km from where eight persons were killed on Friday as alleged CPI-M cadres opened fire on villagers. On Friday, after the strike by the alleged ‘harmads’ — as the armed CPM cadres are known — all Banerjee did was visit the massacre site, Netai village, where there were obviously no armed CPM men in the ransacked camps.
Responding to a villager’s question: “How will we resist the harmads once they come back after you leave? Who will save us?”, she said, “Face the armed goons. You are so many. How many will they kill?”
“I told her what happened on Friday, how they came from all sides and showered bullets on us. We just wanted to ask them to stop calling our boys for armed training,” said Deepali Dandapat, a villager.
This was the second biggest alleged 'harmad' strike after the Nandigram massacre of March 14, 2007 that left 14 dead.
Lalgarh, once a Maoist hot bed, was later cleared by Centre-state forces and "recaptured" by the CPM. HT had reported that the CPM, after reopening its party office there last October, set up armed camps to prevent the Maoists from returning.
On December 22, home minister P Chidambaram had written to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, asking him to dismantle the camps and disarm the cadres. After Friday's massacre, he sent a second letter, calling the CM to Delhi immediately. But Bhattacharjee's office said he had no immediate plans to visit Delhi.
Banerjee, on her part, blamed the state government for colluding with the killers, as "for some strange reason, the police superintendent and district magistrate were sent away yesterday".
"Since the 'Harmad' camp was established, the joint forces did not visit the area. All these point to connivance of the administration with the armed CPM cadres."
New Delhi: In a move aimed at empowering the central paramilitary forces to operate independently in areas of violence, Lalgarh in West Bengal for instance, the Centre has given them powers to raid, search and arrest armed insurgents, including Naxals. The notification, issued last November, has been communicated to all field units.