Thousands of villagers are fleeing West Midnapore district’s Inayatpur village, following the Marxist-Maoist gun battle of Monday night.
According to unconfirmed reports, around 3,000 people have already left Inayatpur and adjacent villages in the Maoist stronghold of Lalgarh.
Contrary to initial reports of 10 deaths, both the state administration and the Communist Party of India (Maoist) Politburo member Koteshwar Rao, alias Kishanji, confirmed that nobody was killed in the fight.
About 20 km east of Lalgarh and 250 km west of Kolkata, Inayatpur is a small village with a population of around 2,000 and is known to be one of the last bastions of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the region.
Trouble began when CPI(M) cadres shot at two women at Inayatpur. The immediate provocation for the attack, however, has not yet been known.
Kishanji said, “We had to retreat around 11 pm on Monday night because of heavy rains. But we would definitely try to ensure that the last of the CPI(M) cadres are driven out of the area.”
The gunfight left three CPI(M) activists and the two women, allegedly Maoist supporters, with bullet injuries.
On Tuesday morning, the two injured, Dulali Besra (28) and Shamburi Besra (40), were taken to the local hospital.
“Last night, I was looking for a shelter when a bullet hit me. But I had nowhere to go,” said Sambari while on her way to the Midnapore Medical College in the district headquarters, about 10 km away.
Although the Lalgarh area has been the centre of the combined anti-Naxal forces’ operations for more than three months now, villagers are scared.
“There is panic among the villagers. But I can’t specify how many villagers have already left. The combined force is trying to restore normalcy,” said Narayan Swarup Nigam, district magistrate, West Midnapore.
“Both the parties have stockpiled arms and ammunition. This fight is not going to end soon,” said 65-year-old Ramcharan Pahari.
Left cries foul
The CPI(M) on Tuesday said the attacks on its party workers and offices by the Maoists in Bengal were being “patronised” by some cabinet ministers.
“The Prime Minister says the greatest danger to our internal security is Maoist violence, but you have cabinet ministers who are patronising and protecting Maoists,” senior party leader Sitaram Yechury said, hinting at the role of the Trinamool Congress, without naming the party.