The Lalgarh bazaar. (AFP)
Lalgarh, June 21: The buzz returned to Lalgarh bazaar today after months.
Reassured by the sight of policemen milling around, shopkeepers rolled up shutters around 10am and a few hundred people came flocking.
The groceries and vegetable vendors were low on stocks but packed with people. There were the all-so-familiar huddles in tea stalls, too.
Jitendranath Mahato, who runs a cloth store, had a relatively quiet opening but he was hopeful that the market would pick up soon. The fear we lived in has gone with the arrival of the police. For months, we had not been able to roam freely. People could not even venture out of Lalgarh to buy provisions as the roads were either dug up or blocked, he said.
Naresh Jena, who deals in cattle fodder, rolled his bicycle to a repairing shop he found open after two months. The chain had snapped but I could not find a place to mend it. The administration should take control of things now, he said.
For months, the police had kept themselves locked inside the police station in fear of the Maoist-backed tribals leading the agitation. The shops opened for barely an hour and shut down at the slightest hint of trouble, which was frequent.
Today, as the sun went down and the lights came on, the shutters did not go down. It remained that way till 8.30pm.
Over 60 per cent of the population in Lalgarh town is non-tribal just the opposite of what it is in the villages.
We were not scared that the tribals would attack us but feared a strike on the police station, which would have escalated the violence and made life worse for us, said a resident.
Trader Kalyani Ponda said: My daughter had to walk 15 minutes to her private tutors house twice a week. As the agitation picked up, we had to stop her tuition. Hope she can return to her classes now.
In a place where the police were scared, residents could not have felt any different. Now that patrolling has resumed, we feel secure, said Shaktidhar Pyne, 65, the owner of a utensils shop.
The relief that coursed through the town was best symbolised by 12-year-old Suchandana Sinha Roys smile yesterday when she peeped over the wall of her house, across the Lalgarh police station, and saw the men in uniform. The once-familiar sight returned to her after so many months.
Prasad Rath, 25, who works in Calcutta and is on leave, said it felt like a holiday at last, sipping tea with friends.
Committee supporters tried to snatch from the CRPF four men arrested for Maoist links and hacked at a jawan with a sword in Belpahari.
The four had been picked up from Banslata village, 60km from Lalgarh, which the force raided following a tip-off that Maoist top gun Kishanji could be hiding there.
Four men with detonators were held on the Bankura border along Goaltore.