There has been an upsurge of fresh violence in the Lalgarh area of West Bengal's Paschim Medinipur district since Sunday night as three persons, including a Communist Party of India (Marxist) functionary , were killed and their houses ransacked by suspected Maoists.

With these killings, five persons have been killed in the region since Saturday. District Superintendent of Police, Manoj Kumar Verma, told The Hindu on Monday that Rajib Singh (30) and Apu Singh (35) were dragged out of their houses on Sunday evening and were shot dead by a group of armed men.

Residents of Chandavila village near Dharampur {ndash} 14 k.m. from Lalgarh, Mr. Rajib was a contractor of building materials and Mr. Apu a timber merchant . Both had been threatened by the Maoists several times in the past for their alleged corrupt practices. Mr. Verma said that a CPI (M) leader, Shyamal Chalak, a resident of Borokeundi village in Salboni, was shot dead by armed assailants early on Monday and the needle of suspicion is towards the Maoists. Mr. Chalak was the secretary of the party's Keundi local committee. His home was also ransacked by the rebels. Apart from this, the house of another CPI (M) supporter, Lakshmi Mahato of Jaipur village adjacent to Borokeundi, was ransacked and set on fire. Mr. Mahato was not at home during the incident. Three persons suspected to be Maoists were arrested by the police late on Sunday and were produced in court on Monday, Mr. Verma said. The State's Home Secretary, Ardhendu Sen, told the reporters at the Secretariat on the day that the Centre has approved the State government's appeal for further stay of the Central forces in the Lalgarh region. Mr. Sen said the State government has requisitioned for an 10 companies of Central force , in addition to the existing 17 companies, for launching a more intense operation against the Maoists.

The Governor, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, expressed concern over the killings in the area. "The murder of people for their political affiliation in the 'Jangalmahal' areas of our State and political violence in some other districts are matters of the deepest concern. They pose a challenge to all those who believe in the democratic path," he said.

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