Youths who have been trained by the Maoists near Lalgarh. (Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)
Calcutta, Nov. 15: Dont hunt them down, but drive them out that is the strategy security forces in West Midnapore have adopted to isolate Maoists from the village youths they have trained.
The security forces in Lagarh and its surrounding areas have launched a new phase of their joint operation in the forests after the chief ministers declaration that the law enforcers would enter the jungles and villages located there to conduct raids.
The forces tasted their first success on the night of November 12 when they entered Bakshibandh village, near Lalgarh, after a gun battle with the Maoists throughout the day. But this time the forces did not leave the area at sundown as always. They set up a camp there.
There was about 50 local youths who were firing at us. We entered the village without causing any casualty. The youths fled along with the guerrillas who had probably trained them. We have set up a camp there and have made the village a Maoists-free area, said an officer overseeing the operation.
During the November 7-8 tour of the junglemahal, Bhattacharjee had said: Security forces will now enter deep inside jungles and into villages. I cant tell you anything more on this.
Kuldiep Singh, the inspector-general of police, western range, of police who was at the meeting that Bhattacharjee held with top police officers, said segregating the local youths from their Maoist leaders was the main goal. If we manage to do this successfully, the trained locals will have to return to their villages and join the mainstream, he said.
Another officer said: Unless it is absolutely necessary, we will not open fire at the rebels. We believe that as we proceed, the hardcore guerrillas from neighbouring states will flee and cross the state border, leaving the local recruits behind. Our goal is to drive every rebel out of the villages and isolate the locals from the hardcore ones, said a senior police official.
The forces have decided to proceed towards other forest areas and villages like Lakshmanpur, Madhupur and Kadamsole, all less than 50km from the Bengal-Jharkhand border, and set up camps there.
These villages are Maoist strongholds. We have information that their leader Kishanji camped in this area for several months before and even after the joint forces moved into Lalgarh in June, said the officer.
Elaborating the strategy, an officer said: We will force the guerrillas to retreat to their strongholds in neighbouring states. The local youths are not as dedicated as their mentors, we think, and will not stay away from their homes and villages for too long. They might hide in the jungles for a few days but will ultimately return.
The officer said they have no instruction to arrest the local youths who have been trained by Maoists if they returns to their villages.
The forces know that this is a long-drawn process but seem hopeful that it would be effective.
Once the job of segregation is over, the administration will have easy access to these villages and implement development-schemes there. Now Maoists and local youths, who are being guided by guerrillas, do not allow government officials to carry out development work. The problem is related to the socio-economic scenario of this area. A boom in development will also help the police and the civil administration to take the tribals into confidence, said a senior police officer.
Suspected Maoists shot dead a former Congress supporter in Belpahari, West Midnapore, this evening. Police said Shasthicharan Dutta, 38, was a trader in firewood and a resident of Banspahari.
A police officer said when Shasthicharan was returning home from a nearby market this evening a group of suspected Maoists surrounded him and shot him dead.