Midnapore, April 12: About 30 policemen patrolling near Lalgarh were confronted by tribals who kept them confined for eight hours this morning.
When the block development officer of Salboni went to negotiate with members of the Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities, he, too, was gheraoed.
According to the police, a team led by the inspector in charge of Goaltore police station was patrolling the jungles of Bhelaidanga in Salboni, about 3km from Lalgarh, searching for Maoists around 7am when the tribals surrounded them.
We were patrolling the jungles because we had information that Maoists were hiding there. Suddenly, about 100 tribal women and children blocked our path and demanded to know what we were doing there. We tried to reason with them but in no time 400 more villagers with bows and arrows joined them, said a policeman who was part of the team.
Salboni BDO Pravat Mukherjee rushed to the spot around 10am to negotiate with the villagers but the tribals encircled him too.
When the BDO arrived, the villagers asked him why he had come now since he had never visited the villages to discuss development work, another policeman said. Mukherjee admitted that he never visited any village in Salboni.
Sidhu Soren, the secretary of the tribal committee, said: We withdrew the gherao after the police promised not to re-enter the area and pay Rs 3,000 as compensation for a dead goat. If they break their promise, they will be gheraoed again.
Manoj Kumar Verma, the West Midnapore superintendent of police, admitted that the police had agreed to pay Rs 3,000 but denied that the BDO or the inspector in-charge had promised not to enter the area.
We cannot make such a promise. If the Election Commission asks us to move into the area, what will we do? We have told the agitators that it is not possible for us to accept the demand. We have, however, agreed to pay Rs 3,000, Verma said. The villagers demanded the money as the goat died after being bitten by a stray dog in the Kalaimuri police camp, which is 500m from the gherao spot.
Yesterday, West Midnapore police clamped prohibitory orders in parts of Lalgarh and Salboni police station areas. The order will be in force till the elections are over.
Madhupur, from where alleged armed CPM cadres tried to enter Lalgarh yesterday, and Bhelaidanga, where the gherao took place today, are among the areas where the prohibitory orders barring gatherings have been enforced.