West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has said his government will teach the Maoists “a lesson” and has rejected the charge that the State turned soft while releasing the tribal people to secure the release of an abducted police officer.

Terming the exchange an exception, he said the decision was taken on humanitarian grounds and should not be seen as part of the State government’s policy towards the Maoists.

Mr. Bhattacharjee was addressing a press conference here on Saturday, a day after he met Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram to discuss the law and order in the State.

The judicial process against the tribal women enlarged on bail would continue, he said. In any case, they would have been released. These women were charged with digging up roads, felling trees and carrying out agitation.

Asked whether the State government, by agreeing to the swap, sent out a message to Maoists that abducting police personnel was a certain way for to secure the release of their sympathisers , he said: “If they learnt this lesson, they are wrong. I will teach them a lesson in the future.”

Mr. Bhattacharjee said the Maoists kidnapped police officer Atindranath Dutta after attacking the Sankrail police station in West Midnapore district in an area sited on the periphery of the core area where the Maoists were active. The exchange took place after the Maoists offered mediation, he said, maintaining that barring the brief period when Mr. Dutta was released, the police and Maoists exchanged fire.

He said the State was maintaining its control over main roads, government offices and main markets, but not in the interior forest area.

The Maoists, he said, were indulging in criminal activities, extortion and murder of police and people. The State was trying to nab Maoist leader Kishanji, who is in frequent touch with the media.

On a senior State government official likening the exchange to the Kandhar hijack episode , Mr. Bhattacharjee said it was his personal view, and not the government’s.