Central paramilitary jawans in Lalgarh. File picture
Calcutta, Oct. 31: The Bengal government today said the Centre had agreed to send six more companies of paramilitary forces to Maoist-hit West Midnapore following a request from the chief minister.
The reported assurance comes at a time railway minister Mamata Banerjee has been demanding an end to the Cen-tre’s joint crackdown with the state.
Seventeen companies — around 1,700 personnel — of central forces are already in West Midnapore and 11 more in neighbouring Bankura and Purulia.
Mamata had this week said that the army should be deployed as the paramilitary forces were being misused by the CPM to expand its base in Lalgarh.
No one expected the Centre to accede to Mamata’s demand straightaway as the Union government has repeatedly said any decision to involve the army in a planned offensive will be taken only after assessing the situation on the ground once the crackdown is launched.
However, if the Centre does send more forces, it will give the UPA a chance to send a signal that internal security issues will be dealt with purely on merit and politics will not be allowed to play a role.
At the political level, the Centre has already responded to the Left charge that Mamata is hand in glove with the Maoists.
Union home minister P. Chidambaram has termed the charge “baseless” with a swipe that the Left seems to know more about the Opposition than what is happening in Bengal.
Senior Bengal officials met at Writers’ Buildings today to discuss the deployment of the additional forces. They will be sent to the “vulnerable’’ areas, sources said.
“We had requested the Centre for additional forces as the situation in West Midnapore was not normal. Reports of murders are pouring into the state headquarters and the government has to act. That means stepping up the joint forces’ operations,” home secretary Ardhendu Sen said.
“We told the Union home ministry the volatile situation had to be dealt with by increasing the number of paramilitary personnel, particularly after the Rajdhani incident. The Centre agreed and will soon send six more companies.”
A source said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had personally urged the home minister to send the additional forces.
“The chief minister had expressed concern at the way the Rajdhani Express was stalled for nearly six hours. He also told Chidambaram that the joint operation had to be stepped up and more forces were required,” the source added.
An announcement by the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities that a militia had been raised to attack government offices is also being cited as a reason for the state’s urgency to get more central forces.
“The threat of a violent militia has put government property at risk. There’s a need to strengthen security in all vital establishments in West Midnapore,” an official said.
Trinamul general secretary Partha Chatterjee iterated the party’s opposition to the police action in Lalgarh. “The killings are continuing and the ground reality is that the paramilitary forces have not been able to deliver the goods. With the joint forces failing, we have asked the governor to intervene.”
He added that the party’s problem was not with the number of units being sent but with “the way they are being used”.
“The Centre needs to look into that,” Chatterjee said.