Purulia, Oct. 11: Naxalites struck on a police party this evening, killing the officer-in-charge of Bandwan police station and seriously injuring five police personnel, in one of the most serious acts of insurgency in south Bengal.
The landmine blast and ambush by activists of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) took place around 4 pm in the Kantabora forest region of Bandwan block in southeast Purulia.
State home secretary Amit Kiran Deb said tonight that it was the first-ever attack by MCC activists in Bengal.
“The government has taken a serious view of the matter and geared up the police administration in Purulia in the wake of the attack by extremists,” he said, adding that senior officials have been asked to conduct raids in search of the miscreants.
Acting on information that the MCC would be holding a secret meeting, personnel from the police station, along with the deputy superintendent of police (headquarters), organised a raid. A force of about 15 policemen in three jeeps left around 3 pm for the suspected spot, approximately 30 km south of Bandwan police station.
As they entered the forest at a place 3 km from Kuchia village, a landmine exploded under the first vehicle, severely damaging it and also injuring three constables. Sub-inspector Das, who was in the second jeep, got down and rushed to the aid of the injured, little knowing that MCC activists would be hiding in the bushes beside the dirt road.
A hail of bullets rang out, critically injuring Das.
Bullets also hit two other constables. Deputy superintendent of police (headquarters) Krishna Kali Lahiri, in charge of law and order in south and southeast Purulia, was in the third vehicle.
Although the policemen retaliated, it is not yet known whether any MCC activist was hit.
“The district superintendent of police (V.K. Goyal) has rushed to the spot from Purulia. Details will be known when we receive a communication from him,” district magistrate B.P. Gopalika said late this evening.
“From what information we have, the landmine blast took place around 4 pm and the encounter was over within half an hour.” Das and the other injured were rushed to Purulia Sadar Hospital, about 60 km away.
Das, however, succumbed to his injuries before he could reach the hospital.
Two constables, Ganesh Dey and Manoranjan Singh Sardar, who received serious head injuries, have been given primary treatment at the hospital and were on their way to Calcutta.
“The incident is extremely serious. An officer-in-charge of a police station has never been killed before by extremist fire in south Bengal,” Gopalika said.
In May, a landmine planted by MCC activists had exploded in Bansgarh in the Jhalda block of northwest Purulia. Both Bansgarh and Kantabora are very close to the Jharkhand border.
Alarmed at the first-ever strike by MCC activists, the state government has sent a message to the Jharkhand administration, requesting it to step up raids against the extremists. Besides, all police stations in west Midnapore and Bankura districts — where MCC has some strongholds — have been alerted.
“Police officials in the twin districts have been put on alert and asked to conduct raids,” inspector-general of police (law and order) Chayan Mukherjee said. Mukherjee, who will discuss the law and order situation with officials at Writers’ Buildings, said in Calcutta that joint raids are being planned in Jharkhand.
In a related development, the state CPM leadership has asked its Purulia unit to bring out rallies and processions to condemn the MCC’s attack on policemen.