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CM seeks Delhi force

Calcutta, Oct. 29: The Bengal government has sought deployment of central forces to contain violence in Nandigram but at the same time iterated the need for a political solution.

If the state eventually deploys the CRPF in Nandigram, it will be the first time a central force will be stepping into the troubled zone, though the Maoist-affected areas of the state already have such security presence.

“Union home minister Shivraj Patil telephoned me yesterday and I told him about our requirement of CRPF personnel,” chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings today.

The disclosure came in the wake of a fresh flare-up in Nandigram over the weekend that claimed at least four lives.

Home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray has sent a letter to his counterpart at the Centre, Madhukar Gupta, seeking a CRPF battalion (about 600 personnel) for deployment. “We expect their arrival in a week,’’ Ray said.

A 400-strong force is now deployed in Nandigram. The personnel are drawn from the State Armed Police, the Eastern Frontier Rifles and the Rapid Action Force. The CRPF presence — numbering 450 jawans — in the state is limited to West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia — all districts facing Maoist trouble.

The chief minister, however, turned down the possibility of army deployment in Nandigram, saying he was still open to dialogue with the Opposition.

“I feel that the Nandigram issue has to be solved through political will and discussions with the Opposition parties. I am ready to open a dialogue with them on all aspects to ensure restoration of normality in Nandigram and its adjoining areas. For this, letters need not be sent,’’ he said.

Asked whether tougher action was needed, Bhattacharjee said: “It’s not a question of the army or police being asked to move in. The issue is more of political will. Armed men, aided by Naxalites, are operating there.”

Bhattacharjee also touched upon some of the key demands of a Trinamul Congress-led outfit spearheading the agitation in Nandigram. “I am willing to talk on the compensation issue, the demand for withdrawal of police cases and that Nandigram be kept outside the Haldia Development Authority’s purview.”

He did not refer to another demand — that action be taken against police officers involved in the March 14 incident. Compensation has been announced for the 14 deaths on that day but the outfit wants all casualties since the clashes broke out in January to be covered.

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