Somnath Ghosh and Shakti Ghosh, both in their late 20s, have never seen or handled landmines in their lives.
Yet the police are now forcing these two residents of Dhanghori village, near Lalgarh, to look for buried landmines with the help of iron rods.
The specialist anti-mine personnel in their ranks, meanwhile, are just whiling away their time in the nearby Bhimpur camp, about 6 km from the Lalgarh police station, which government forces re-entered on Saturday after about six months.
At 9 am on Sunday, the police had blocked the road to Pirrakuli, about 10 km from Lalgarh police station. Hindustan Times
noticed the two youth trying to dig up something at a spot indicated by a group of about 20 policemen.
A little while later, the cops lifted the roadblock. “We had suspected that there might have been a land mine here.
Thankfully there was none. The road is clear now,” said the officer in charge of the group.
But what were the two youth doing there?
There was no answer forthcoming from the police.
A police constable on duty nearby let the cat out of the bag. “The Maoists would think twice before setting off a landmine if there are locals nearby.”
When HT contacted them later, the two young men said: “The police told us to dig for landmines.” As equipment, they were handed over two S-shaped iron rods with nylon ropes attached at one end. They were not even given any protective clothing.
According to intelligence reports, the Naxalites have laid a large number of landmines in the area to ward off the police and paramilitary advance.
“We were eating muri (puffed rice) outside our house, when a few policemen ordered us to go with them. We did not have the courage to refuse,” said Somnath.
They were then asked to dig up the suspected landmine site. “They also told us to check any suspicious object like plastic bags and tin cans in the area,” said Shakti, the second youth.
“Maybe the police do not want to take the risk of going near suspected landmines,” added Somnath.