Purulia, March 27: Police and People’s War activists exchanged more than a hundred rounds late last night in the forests near Bandwan block. Bandwan officer-in-charge Nilmadhab Das was gunned down in October in this area, in one of the first killings of police personnel by extremists in south Bengal.
There were, however, no reports of injury on either side in last night’s skirmish.
State home secretary Amit Kiran Deb said in Calcutta that the police had to open fire when they were attacked in the forests near Gurupana village about 210 km west of Calcutta. “We are keeping a watch on the development and all police stations in the district have been alerted,” he said.
Purulia superintendent of police Vineet Kumar Goyal, accompanied by deputy superintendent of police (headquarters) Kalyan Mukherjee, led a force of about 25 personnel from a police camp set up at Rasiknagar High School about 10 km from the encounter spot.
The force, which was acting on a tip-off that militants had gathered in the area, entered the forests that border Jharkhand in the south and West Midnapore in the east, around 9.30 pm. The police force ran into fire by the alert extremists.
Additional superintendent of police Tapas Ranjan Ghosh said: “The extremists opened fire first.”
The policemen retaliated. “The exchange lasted for almost an hour in the darkness,” the police official said.
Once the shooting stopped, the police started combing the forest. Police personnel feel the extremists — who numbered between 15 and 20 — have fled to Jharkhand.
Patrolling of the area continues and villagers of the region are being questioned.
Inspector-general of police (law and order) Chayan Mukherjee said today at the state police headquarters in Calcutta that two landmines were recovered from the forest, along with a revolver, a pipegun, a rifle and about 50 cartridges.
District police sources said the extremists may have been planning an operation in the region, with the police as targets. “The recovery of two mines indicates this,” Ghosh pointed out.
Landmines were used in an attack on security personnel in the Belpahari forests in West Midnapore, which is not far from Gurupana. Seven policemen were killed in that raid.