The Maoist meeting. (Sanat Kumar Sinha)
Dharampur, June 24: Maoists knew the movement and mode of transport of the chief secretary.
But chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti and police cannot be accused of getting distracted by such diversions as keeping track of Maoists while striving to bring normality to Lalgarh.
Armed Maoists today organised a meeting of 3,000 villagers less than 5km from Lalgarh police station where the chief secretary reached today to hold a strategy session. Lalgarh town also hosts a huge security force.
The Maoist meeting, full with loudspeakers blaring threats at the government, went on for two hours at Dharampur, the attack on which jolted the state government out of a seven-month stupor and forced it to call central forces.
The venue was an open field opposite the CPM party office that had recently been gutted by the Maoists. Ringing the assembled villagers were armed Maoists, some craning their necks to look out for approaching strangers.
The security at the meeting was so tight that the 500 metres leading off the metalled road linking Lalgarh to Jhargram to the venue was lined with about 150 members of the armed squad, some standing in clusters.
At the meeting, watched over by Bikash, the Maoist in charge of Lalgarh operations, speakers urged the villagers to gear up for war. The Maoists made it clear that they were aware of the movement of the chief secretary. They accused him of squandering money by visiting Lalgarh in the helicopter to find out the state of the deprived and destitute people here.
But Chakrabarti later said he was unaware that such a meeting had taken place. I know nothing about this meeting, he said before leaving Lalgarh. But I have asked the police to tread with caution.
Midnapore DIG Praveen Kumar, who led the combined forces into Lalgarh, admitted: I, too, dont have any information on this.
But an officer of a central force now in Lalgarh said: One of our problems here is lack of intelligence. If the Maoists were holding a large, open meeting within such a short distance, we should definitely have known about it. This is even more surprising since the media got to know of it but we didnt.
The police said even if they had the information, they would have had to travel either by foot or on two wheelers as the road to Dharampur has been dug up at three places.
Vehicles could have travelled only for 2km, an officer said.
After that, we would have had to walk as it would have been difficult to organise so many two-wheelers. By the time we would have reached, the meeting would have been over and everyone would have dispersed.
But the central force officer said this could not be an excuse for not obtaining the information. What is important is to get the tip-off, he said. What we do with it is another matter.