The bullet-ridden body of another person, suspected to have been killed by Maoists, was found in the Lalgarh area in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district on Sunday taking the death toll in the region over the past three days to six even as incidents of exchange of fire between Maoists and security forces took place at several places in the morning hours.

Villagers found the body of Dhanpati Murmu, district secretary of the Jharkhand Party, on the outskirts of Khasjungle village early in the morning, Manoj Verma, District Superintendent of Police, told The Hindu over telephone.

Police suspect that Maoists are responsible for the killings of five people, including two jawans of the security forces and a local leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), since November 27.

Ashwini Mahato, a supporter of the Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC), was killed in cross-fire during a gun battle between security forces and the Maoists.

“Suspend operations”

Condemning the death of Ashwini Mahato and other alleged police atrocities, the PSBJC has asked the State government to respond to a plea to suspend the joint operations for a period of 15 days during the harvesting season.

Villagers taken unawares

“Ordinary villagers, who are gathering the yield in the fields, are taken unawares and suddenly find themselves trapped in a situation of conflict between the security forces and Maoists,” Asit Mahato, spokesperson for PSBJC, told The Hindu.

“If the State government refuses to suspend operations, the PSBJC will call for a 3-day bandh across the three districts of Bankura, Purulia and Paschim Medinipur. If the State government concedes, a similar plea will be placed before the Maoists,” Mr. Mahato added.

Operations intensify

Admitting that violence in the region had intensified over the past few days, Mr. Verma said: “There have been more incidents recently. This is their [Maoists’] reaction to the success of the joint operations. We have made a number of arrests amongst their cadres, so they want to prove that their presence is still there.”

Joint operations by security forces to flush out Maoists and supporters of the Maoist-backed PSBJC from the Lalgarh area were launched on June 18.