Security forces reach Lalgarh
The security forces marched five km through a forest, considered a Maoist den, to reach the Lalgarh block headquarters today- on the third day of the offensive launched by the West Bengal Govt to free the area of leftwing radicals. Meanwhile, top rebel leader K Koteshwar Rao has urged the state Govt to halt the operations and apologise to the masses to begin a dialogue. Listen to Podcastindia Updated: Jun 20, 2009 15:08 IST
Using mine-proof vehicles and landmine detectors, security forces marched five kilometres through a forest, considered a Maoist den, to reach the Lalgarh block headquarters on Saturday - on the third day of the offensive launched by the West Bengal government to free the area of leftwing radicals.
Meanwhile, top rebel leader K Koteshwar Rao alias Kishanjee urged the West Bengal government to halt the operations and apologise to the masses to begin a dialogue.
A day after their advance was slowed down in the face of stiff resistance from the Maoists, who Friday carried out surprise attacks and engaged the forces in heavy gunbattles besides triggering landmine explosions, the central and state forces treaded with extreme caution as they combed the Jhitka Jungles onway to this area in West Midnapore district.
The first batch of the security forces - comprising personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force and the state armed policemen - have reached Lalgarh police station after starting from their base camp in Bhimpur, said a top police officer.
The commandos of the elite CoBRA (Combat Battalion for Resolute Action) of the CRPF, a specialized anti-Maoist force, is part of the team which reached this police station, which had virtually been non-functional over the last six months ever since the Maoists entrenched themselves in the region.
The policemen, apprehensive of their own security, had been keeping the police station locked from inside since last November when troubled started here.
While the district police superintendent led the team into the police station on Saturday and took charge, some of the forces were, however, still in the jungles, looking for explosives and any rebel presence, besides sanitizing the area.
The security forces have been advancing from four directions towards Lalgarh, where the Maoist guerrillas have been active in organising a tribal movement alongside a tribal body. Lalgarh is 200 km from Kolkata.
Apart from the main contingent at Bhimpur, three other teams are moving from Jhargam and Goaltor in West Midnapore district and Sarenga in Bankura.
The group from Sarenga police station, that faced a strong challenge from the radicals at Kargil More of Pingboni, is stranded at the junction amidst fears that the Maoists have planted a landmine on the road.
Meanwhile, Communist Party of India-Maoist politburo member K Koteshwar Rao has urged west Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee not to "dance to the tune" of the central government.
"He is acting like a puppet of the centre by launching the operation against us. I demand that the state government withdraw the forces, apologise to the people and send their top representatives to Dalilpur in Lalgarh for talks with the masses," said Kishanjee, who claimed he was still in Lalgarh.
On Friday, state Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen had claimed that Kishanjee had fled Lalgarh.
On Friday, two security personnel were injured in a landmine blast triggered by the rebels.
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, the angry tribals launched an agitation virtually cutting off the area from the rest of the district.
During the last few days, the agitators have torched CPI-M offices, driven away the party's supporters and forced the police to leave, thereby establishing a virtual free zone.
Maoists are active in three western districts of the state - West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. They also backed the Trinamool-sponsored movement against the state government's bid to establish a chemical hub at Nandigram in East Midnapore district.