|A jawan offers milk powder to a girl in Lalgarh. (Pradip Sanyal)
Lalgarh, June 30: The circle of domination may be in place but a vicious circle is enveloping Lalgarh.
Police feel that around 400 to 500 tribal youths trained by the Maoists to handle weapons are on the loose in Lalgarh but the security establishments efforts to track them down or identify them are running into a stonewall of hostility. Enraged, the police are said to be beating up people who chose to stay back in villages, further alienating an already aggrieved populace.
The vicious circle worsens the impact of the collapse of the intelligence network during the seven months Lalgarh was inaccessible to state agencies, especially at a time security forces are bracing for a long settlement in the restive belt.
Information is proving to be a stumbling block for the police. The men have fled the villages; only women and children remain. Even if the men return, the police are not sure how the security forces will tell between Maoist supporters and others.
Those who have been trained by the Maoists will return gradually, said Kuldiep Singh, IG, western range. But we are helpless as we would not be able to identify them. Even if they indulge in hit-and-run tactics, we will not be able to do anything unless they are caught red-handed since they are all local residents.
In such a scenario, the villagers allege, the police are making random arrests of men they come across and threatening as well as beating up women.
In Kumarbandh village, about 2.5km from Kantapahari where the forces linked up from two sides and completed the so-called circle of domination, the police carried out a raid last afternoon and picked up the only man present, 25-year-old Diwan Soren.
Citing another instance, villagers alleged that Subhas Mahato was arrested in Bankuras Sarenga yesterday as soon as he revealed he hailed from Barapelia, the headquarters of the Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities.
We had locked ourselves in but we were dragged out and questioned, said Uttami Majhi of Rasoonpur village. When we resisted, my neighbour Sabitri and I were hit on our arms by the police. The police said rub some oil and the pain will go.
Since then, the women have left their homes for a relief camp.
About 400 to 500 local youths were trained by the Maoist guerrillas in the Jhitka and Kadashole-Mohultala forests, a senior police officer said. Those from outside can easily be identified as they speak a different language and cannot prove that they belong here. But the task becomes so much more difficult when it comes to local youths who have been trained.
The officer said that recently in Lachhipur village, an improvised explosive device was detonated when a CPM local committee member, Chandi Karan, was passing by on his motorcycle. He escaped narrowly, but the bomb was detonated by someone in an adjoining paddy field where villagers were working.
In all probability, it was detonated by one of the trained local youths, the officer said. But with the villagers not talking, there was little we could have done.
In Narcha village near Barapelia, Malati Tudu said: We have asked the men to leave, we have told our husbands and sons to go.
The women and children have moved into a primary school. We have not locked our doors but kept them open because if they are locked, the police might break them open, Malati said. We are poor people and we do not have the money to repair our doors.