Tribal women protestors in Lalgarh teargassed

P. Chidambaram Lalgarh (West Bengal), July 29 (IANS) A Trinamool Congress team, including two junior central ministers, visited this trouble-torn belt Tuesday and demanded the withdrawal of the ongoing security operations before police staged a baton charge and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse a group of agitating tribal women.
Around 350 women, owing allegiance to the agitating tribal body People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) and carrying posters asking for the withdrawal of the security forces, came in a procession near the Lalgarh police station when they were stopped by the security forces.
As the women tried to break the police barricade, the central and state forces first baton-charged them and then fired tear gas shells to disperse them. “The women tried to force their way into the police station and so we had to first baton charge them and then fire tear gas shells,” said a police officer here.
PCAPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato later alleged that the forces had beaten up the women without any provocation.
The trouble started a little after the high profile Trinamool team visited Lalgarh to get a first hand view of the situation after security forces were deployed last month to flush out Maoist rebels from this trouble-torn belt in West Midnapore district.
Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy, Minister of State for Rural Development Sisir Adhikari and Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Partha Chattopadhyay were part of the delegation that handed over rice and other relief material to the Block Development Officer here.
Amid heavy security, the Trinamool team visited a school and spoke to students, teachers and guardians who complained about the disruption of studies after the security forces camped in the schools of the area. The students, teachers and parents have, over the past few days, been demanding that the forces vacate the schools.
The Trinamool leaders are also to visit the Lalgarh police station and some of the villages in the area.
“We did not face any obstruction. But the administration and the ruling CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) goons stopped locals from meeting us,” Chattopadhyay said.
He alleged that the security forces were torturing innocent tribal villagers in the guise of searching for Maoists. “People are being tortured. The area badly needs development. But the Left front government has not done anything during the 32 years it has been in power in the state,” he added.
Chattopadhyay said: “This security operation must stop. The CPI-M is using it to capture political turf and commit atrocities on its political opponents.”
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had Monday asked the state’s Left Front government to ensure security for the Trinamool team after party chief Mamata Banerjee spoke to him.
Roy and Adhikari had allegedly been obstructed by CPI-M activists last month when they were proceeding to two troubled areas in this belt.
The security operation was launched in and around Lalgarh last month after Maoists torched police camps and drove away the police and civil administration to establish what they claimed was a “free zone” in the region since last November.
Lalgarh has been on the boil since November when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada.
Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, angry tribals backed by Maoists launched an agitation, virtually cutting off the area from the rest of West Midnapore district.
Maoists are active in areas under 21 police stations in the state’s three western districts - West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.