Within a few hours after the Maoists laid down the 72-day-ceasefire condition before the Centre for initiating talks, a senior leader of the Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities) was killed when the security forces opened fire to repulse an alleged attack by Maoists on the Katapahari camp near Lalgarh in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district late on Monday.

While the district police claimed that an ‘unidentified person,’ suspected to be a Maoist, was killed during ‘retaliatory’ firing by the security personnel, the PSBJC alleged that the security forces murdered Lalmohan Tudu, president of the PSBJC, in a “cold-blooded manner in front of his house.”

The PSBJC leadership has called a seven-day-bandh in the three districts of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia from Wednesday in protest against the death of Mr. Tudu.

Essential services like ration shops, hospitals, movement of vegetables by farmers to local markets and the ongoing Madhyamik examinations, however, have been exempted from the shutdown.

Superintendent of police Manoj Kumar Verma told The Hindu on Tuesday: “The Maoists seemingly had prior information about the movement of security forces from the camp and fired upon them. The forces retaliated resulting in a gunfight. An unidentified body was later recovered from the spot along with two firearms.”

Police sources further claimed the death of two more Maoists during the gun-battle, though they admitted that their bodies could not be found, while the PSBJC alleged that the security forces “abducted” two villagers who could not be traced.

Speaking to The Hindu from the Lalgarh region on Tuesday, Asit Mahato, spokesperson of the PSBJC said: “Our leader was killed by the police and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in a planned way in an effort to upset our movement. We demand the Union Home Minister initiate an enquiry into this killing.”

Calling upon all intellectuals and human rights forums to raise their voice against the killing, Mr. Mahato warned of a “mass uprising” against the “atrocities” by the security personnel in the name of anti-Maoist operations.

He criticised the Centre for being averse to inviting the leadership for dialogue even though it is ready to talk to the “gun-toting violent Maoists.”

“The Centre is giving a chance to the Maoists who are indulging in regular violence and bloodbath for initiating talks. But the PSBJC’s repeated appeals for holding dialogue with the Centre have fallen on deaf ears,” Mr. Mahato said.

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