Lalgarh crisis deepens as CPI-M, tribal leader trade charges

Ram Vilas Paswan Kolkata, April 12: The crisis in West Bengal’s tribal-dominated Lalgarh area where residents have been protesting police “excesses” and resisting a planned government crackdown against Maoist rebels, deepened Friday with a senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader and tribal leader trading charges on the agitation.

Lambasting the movement of the tribals who are not allowing the police to enter the region, the CPI-M’s Subhas Chakraborty said: “No one has the right to stop the police from entering any region. It’s against the constitution, the state administration and the common people.”

“Who says he (tribal leader Chattradhar Mahato) is a representative of people?” the CPI-M leader asked, adding that had he been holding any position of authority, he would have had Mahato arrested on sedition charges.

Mahato is the leader of the People’s Committee against Police Atrocity (PCAPA) which is leading the movement in the Maoist-affected region in the state’s West Midnapore district.

In response, Mahato said: “Let him (Chakraborty) come to the jungles of Lalgarh and see who holds power. I would ask the CPI-M leader to come and see the plight of tribal population here.”

“He (Chakraborty) only thinks everything can be done at gun-point. But no, he is wrong,” he said, adding the tribals were not doing anything undemocratic by not allowing the police into Lalgarh.

Mahato alleged that if the local people allowed the police, the CPI-M “hooligans” would enter the region disguised as policemen and ransack their villages.

According to police sources, thousands of tribals in Lalgarh also took out a huge rally Friday evening opposing the state government’s move to carry out a police operation there.

The state government had announced that police operations would definitely be carried out in the area to unearth Maoist guerrillas from the region before the Lok Sabha polls.

State Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen said the government was in the process of working out a proper method on how the police would enter the region without causing any trouble to the common people.
Trouble erupted in Lalgarh November last year after the police arrested some school students and allegedly harassed tribal women following a landmine blast on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada near Bhadutala area.

Later, the tribals dug up roads, virtually cutting off the area from the rest of the district. They also demanded a public apology from the police for the “excesses” against the local people.