It was bows and arrows versus bullets in Maoist-dominated Lalgarh on Wednesday, and the arrows won.
As the police swooped down to clear a blockade on a national highway in this region where the Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), backed by the CPI (Maoist), is currently running a parallel administration, local Maoist supporters began showering arrows on them.
The police responded first with teargas, then blank shells, then live bullets. The arrows kept coming till the police finally retreated. The blockade remains.
The government said it was determined to curb the Maoists and stop them from expanding beyond the ‘Free Zone’.
“We are as yet undecided on entering this so-called Liberated Zone,” Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen said. “But we are working to restrict the Maoists’ expansion.”
The unrest in the region began on Sunday, when the police arrested nine PCAPA activists on their way to a rally at Lodhashuli, West Midnapore. The rally was intended to expand the ‘Free Zone’.
The same day, PCAPA chief Chhatradhar Mahato declared indefinite blockade of ‘Jungalmahal’ (forest areas), demanding immediate release of their supporters.
The government’s response was to bust open blockades, and arrest more PCAPA supporters. So far, 54 supporters have been arrested.
“The administration has no intention of giving in,” said a West Midnapore district administrative officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.