The killers entered Darda village at 3am. They called seven people chosen for death — including the woman panchayat chief, Chapala Gorai — from their homes and gunned them down.
Friday morning, villagers found the bodies of Forward Bloc activists — all in the age group of 40 to 50 years — scattered over a field at the hilly Baghbinda village of Purulia district, about 300 km from here.
The police found posters left by the Maoists at the spot, claiming the activists of the Forward Bloc, a ruling Left Front constituent, had been spying on the rebels for security forces.
A source in the CPI (Maoist) said: “We have found that the success of the security forces is substantially based on the intelligence provided by political activists. That’s why we have decided to attack them.”
“We are conducting raids in and around the area where the bodies were found,” said Sunil Chowdhury, district police chief. The police could not arrest anybody till Friday evening.
Never have the Maoists killed so many political activists at one go since their second emergence in Bengal on November 2, 2008 when they targeted CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s motorcade in West Midnapore district.
Observers said after being on the run in West Midnapore due to the intense anti-Maoist operations by the Centre-state joint forces during the past six months, the rebels have been regrouping in Purulia district that has a mountainous terrain, bordering Jharkhand.
The killings triggered a blame game. Debabrata Biswas, Forward Bloc general secretary, said, “Let the Congress and Trinamool clarify their stand on this incident now.” He said his party would hold a rally at the spot on December 27. CPI(M) leader and Left Front chairman Biman Bose said in Kolkata: “We will observe December 18 as a condemnation day in the state.”
On Friday, the joint forces recovered a cache of arms and explosives from a Maoist camp in West Midnapore district.