The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Encircled epicentre prepares to erupt

Nandigram, Nov. 9: The spectre of a showdown looms over Sonachura — the epicentre of the Nandigram rebellion — with CPM cadres and the rival resistance group openly preparing to wage war.

Unless police shed their spectator status and stir into action, more bloodshed is round the corner, different sources with access to both camps said this evening.

Sonachura, 160km from Calcutta, is the hub of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC). Local CPM leaders insist that arms are stockpiled and Maoists holed up in the village.

Ashok Guria, a CPM district secretariat member, said Sonachura had to be recaptured in order to send CPM supporters back to their homes. “We have to do it, there is no stopping us now,” he said.

But Abu Taher, a BUPC leader, said: “It’s a battle of nerves and we are prepared to give them a fight.”

The offensive launched on Monday night has helped the CPM “recapture” at least 50 per cent of the land from which the party’s supporters were evicted.

“Operation Sonachura is our next priority. Once it is reclaimed, we would be able to smash the opposition completely,” claimed a local CPM leader, who is camping with a squad at Maheshpur that was captured on Wednesday.

“We believe that many Maoists are holed up there with a huge cache of arms. We have to evict them from Nandigram. The strategy has been chalked out and it will be executed within the next couple of days,” he said.

According to a senior police officer, the Red Brigade — the CPM’s private army that is leading the assault — is now camping near the Bhangabera bridge in Khejuri, the site of the March 14 violence in which 14 people were killed.

“Sonachura and Maheshpur were the two key points of operation of the BUPC. The latter has already been recaptured and now preparations are on in full swing to oust them from Sonachura,” the officer said. “Only then can the CPM fully dictate terms.”

An official said the CPM’s strategy now is to regroup its squads, some of which are carrying out “mopping-up operations” in Maheshpur.

“The CPM will face strong opposition from the BUPC and the suspected Maoists while entering Sonachura. The cadres are well aware of this,” another police officer said.

CPM sources said the cadres would need to double the manpower and ammunition compared with the resources they used to wrest the other areas of Nandigram.

BUPC members are also preparing themselves to resist the expected onslaught.

Armed men have been deployed at all key points of entry to Sonachura. Three groups of 300 members, including women, have been camping at Sonachura and the other side of Bhangabera to fight the Red Brigade.

“Our men are in total control of Sonachura. We have our women squads trained in exchanging fire. Smaller groups of armed men are also hiding inside paddy fields to fight back,” a BUPC member said.

Fresh stocks of arms and ammunition arrived from Jharkhand through the river route a couple of days ago, a BUPC member claimed. “We had arms and ammunition at our disposal but we got some more. Most of the arms and ammunition have been transported to the three points serving as bunkers.”


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