The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Naxalite raid earns villagers' wrath
- Assault on hunger-death crusader spurs resentment

Kankrajhore, Dec. 8: The Naxalites have put the government on its toes with their raid at Kankrajhore, but they also seem to have earned the wrath of the villagers.

Since Saturday's attack, resentment has been growing against the Communist Party of India (Maoist) guerrillas. About 80 armed extremists had descended on the house of Banamali Mura, secretary of the CPM's Kankrajhore branch committee, and beat up Kailash Mura, member of the Belpahari panchayat samiti, and other CPM supporters.

The Naxalites also torched three vehicles used for road construction and blew up three forest bungalows, about 240 km from Calcutta, in West Midnapore.

Villagers of the Belpahari-Kankrajhore area are angry over the assault on Kailash, who had brought into focus the 'starvation' deaths in neighbouring Amlashol.

The media had picked up Kailash's statements on the 'starvation' deaths and after initial embarrassment, the government had rushed in relief material and started several schemes to better life in the impoverished belt.

'These people (Maoists) used to tell us that their targets were the police and corrupt political leaders. Then why did they beat up Kailash' It is because of Kailash that the government noticed our poverty and sent us relief and started development schemes. We have heard a hospital will also be built here. After last week's attack, we feel those people want us to remain as we are,' complained Rasik Singh of Kankrajhore.

Jolted by the raids, the government is beefing up security in the western Naxalite belt. Seven companies of the CRPF are being moved from north Bengal to West Midnapore, a police official said today.

The forces might find friends among the villagers of Kankrajhore and neighbouring Amjharna, Daldali, Amlashol, Burijhore, Birgi and Churimara as anger is building over stalling of construction of a 12.5-km road. They also realise that the attack has robbed the livelihood of the youths who used to earn a few rupees from tourists visiting the three bungalows.

Nearly 300 local youths were working on the road as labourers since September. Now, they are scared and furious.

'Whatever these young people were earning has now stopped. When we started work, these people came and assured the villagers that they would not be harmed,' said Dusmanta Giri, contractor of the road project.

Though the state police chief yesterday announced that construction would begin from Thursday under heavy police escort, Giri is not keen.

'Our youths supplied vegetables, chicken, eggs, tea, cigarettes and other items to tourists who stayed at the forest bungalows. With the bungalows destroyed, no tourist will come and there will be no income,' rued Kajal Mura of Namopara in Kankrajhore.

The local CPM has seized on the discontent and started a campaign in Kankrajhore and Belpahari that the Naxalites are against development. They took out a procession yesterday.

'So long, a section of villagers sympathised with the Naxalites. Now they realise that the guerrillas actually oppose development in the area,' said Himnagshu Mahato, secretary of the CPM's Belpahari zonal committee.

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