Violence continued to rage in the Lalgarh area of West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district as security forces and suspected Maoists engaged in a gunbattle at Dahijuri on Tuesday evening, three days after the arrest of Chhatradhar Mahato, convener of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC).
Supporters of the PSBJC, meanwhile, threatened to embark on a “blood-soaked movement shortly” in the Lalgarh area unless their leader was unconditionally released.
Speaking to The Hindu over telephone from Dharampur near Lalgarh on Tuesday, senior PSBJC leader Asit Mahato said: “We have treaded the peaceful path of democratic movement for long. But when the State government has chosen the violent way, we will not sit back. Preparations for a blood-soaked movement are underway and we are mobilising the tribal population in the region for the same.”
Mr. Mahato added that besides the 48-hour-bandh called by the PSBJC in the Jangalmahal area (common name for forested areas in the region) from September 30, it was also contemplating calling an indefinite bandh in the region unless their demand was met.
That the threats by the PSBJC supporters and the Maoists to retaliate violently in protest against Chhatradhar Mahato’s arrest are not empty is proved by the slew of violent incidents taking place in the region since his arrest.
Apart from torching houses of Communist Party of India (Marxist) supporters and public vehicles and triggering landmine blasts, the PSBJC supporters have reverted to their earlier method of protesting — digging up roads and felling trees across them .
The district police superintendent Manoj Kumar Verma said apart from the incident of fire-exchange, one landmine was also detected and defused by the police during the day.
None, however, was arrested in connection with the incidents, Mr. Verma said.
Fearing a counter-attack by the Maoists on the Midnapore town, security has been stepped up there and prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Cr PC have been imposed in the Binpur, Jhargram and Belpahari blocks . “We have taken up several security measures like checking of vehicles, setting up additional check posts and stepping up patrolling in sensitive areas,” Mr. Verma said.
Journalists living in fear
Meanwhile, the two journalists, who reportedly accompanied the undercover policemen to Chhatradhar Mahato’s hideout resulting in his arrest, are living in fear.
The house of one of the journalists was attacked on the night of September 26 as unidentified miscreants hurled bombs and broke the streetlights in front of his house.
“I have been receiving several threat calls from unidentified callers. I am feeling threatened about my family’s security,” he told The Hindu.
A group of journalists submitted a deputation to the sub-divisional officer at Jhargram on Monday in protest against “bartering the security of journalists in the region by the police in exchange of Chhatradhar Mahato’s arrest.”
Mr. Verma, however, refuted reports of journalists being made instrumental by the police in zeroing on the PSBJC leader.
“It was purely a police operation and it is wrong information that any journalist was being involved in it by the police. We had prior information about Chhatradhar Mahato’s whereabouts and carried out the operation with a professional approach,” he said.