Once bitten, Operation Secure rolls

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  • Published 21.06.09

Lalgarh, June 21: The same scene had been playing itself out ever since police recaptured the road from Pirakata to Lalgarh on Thursday. But suddenly, it was different today.

Bengal police and CRPF jawans were patrolling the Pirakata-Lalgarh road today to ensure the “recaptured” stretch didn’t slip back into the control of Maoists, like it did earlier.

“Senior officials held a meeting last night and it was decided the police would guard the entire stretch,” a police official said.

On Thursday, after leaving Pirakata, seven companies, drawn from the CRPF and state police, had left the area and worked their way through “human shields” till they reached Bhimpur.

They had patrolled the “recaptured” stretch that night and set up a base camp in Bhimpur but as they consolidated their grip there, the areas behind it were left unguarded.

The result: supporters of the People Committee against Police Atrocities were back on the road next afternoon, blocking it with boulders, while Maoist snipers fired from the sides. The force battled them three hours before it cleared the road again.

Yesterday, as the police marched into Lalgarh, armed Maoists were back on the Lalgarh-Bhimpur stretch, blocking it with boulders and cutting off the supply line for the police.

At last night’s meeting, the officers, bolstered by the scheduled arrival of more troops, decided to plug the hole. At 4am today, trucks rolled out of Lalgarh carrying CRPF personnel who were dropped along the 6km stretch of the Jhitka forest.

For the rest of the road to Pirakata, the job was done mainly by men drawn from Bengal police, though there was a sprinkling of CRPF jawans too.

Along the 10km stretch from the forest to Pirakata, there were 30-odd clusters, of three to four policemen each, scanning cars and checking the identities of the passengers. Some peered at the fields and bushes, aware the Maoists could be lurking around.

In the stretch of the Jhitka forest, however, there were no clusters of CRPF jawans but stray personnel every few metres, some atop trees.

“We were advancing but villagers kept disrupting, making it difficult for troops to move back and forth,” said Murlidhar A, additional superintendent of police (operations). “We could not post policemen along the route earlier as there weren’t enough of them. But now we are getting more troops and things are more comfortable.”

But, as in the last few days, things were more difficult for the state police than the central forces. While the CRPF were supplied water every couple of hours and provided khichri for lunch, their state counterparts complained that they had neither been provided water nor had they been given anything to eat.

The policemen were also making occasional forays into neighbouring huts. But a senior officer said instructions had been given not to open fire on any villager.

Jawan heat stroke

A CRPF jawan in Lalgarh was airlifted to the Kalaikunda air force base after suffering a heat stroke today. Six other jawans also fell ill because of the heat but were treated there itself.