Suspected Maoists gunned down three persons in the Lalgarh region of West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district late on Friday even as elaborate security arrangements were being made for Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s two-day visit to the district headquarters at Midnapore town on Saturday.

A former legislator of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Subhas Soren, was shot at by suspected Maoists at Gopiballavpur in the district. He was rushed to the Midnapore Medical College Hospital in a critical condition.

Bullet-riddled bodies of the victims – Lakshmi Das, Manoranjan Mahali and Jayram Hansda – were discovered on a road by the dense Kusbani forest, around 65 km from Midnapore town. Several Maoist posters were also found strewn on the road at the spot.

The posters stated that the three persons were awarded capital punishment because they were involved in espionage on behalf of the police and also used to extort money in the name of the Maoists.

According to police sources, all three were members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)–backed Gana Pratirodh Committee that was set up in the region in December 2008 to resist Maoists.

The victims were abducted from their houses in nearby villages on Friday.

Police sources said that though the involvement of the Maoists in the three killings is apparent from the posters, they are not ruling out a political angle while investigating the case.

Buddhadeb reaches Midnapore

Amid stringent security cover, Mr. Bhattacharjee arrived in Midnapore town on Saturday evening. He held a high-level meeting with the district magistrates and police superintendents of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia districts on issues of Maoist violence and development.

Around 3,000 police personnel were deployed to ensure his security. Sniffer dogs and landmine detectors were also employed, leaving nothing to chance.

PSBJC holds protest rally

Meanwhile, the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC) organised a protest rally of students and teachers from several schools across the Lalgarh region. They demanded the removal of security forces from the schools where they were camping since June.

Reacting to the Chief Minister’s visit, Santosh Patra, a senior PSBJC leader told The Hindu over telephone: “Had the Chief Minister been really concerned about the condition of people in the forested areas, he would have visited them and not just held meetings in the town.”

Mr. Patra said that by bringing in an additional six companies of security forces, the government had lost the trust of the tribal population.

Supporters of the PSBJC also felled trees to block NH-6 between Jhargram and Lodhashuli. The day also happened to be the outfit’s first anniversary.

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