Freedom here, fear there - Relieved cops hug & break down

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By ZEESHAN JAWED in Lalgarh
  • Published 21.06.09
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Lalgarh, June 20: When the first batch of 20-odd state policemen reached Lalgarh police station a little before noon, they had to slip in through the side gate.

Their colleagues inside, besieged and threatened daily for seven months, had locked themselves in, and also the main gate.

Seconds later, when those inside peeped out and saw the uniforms on the visitors’ backs, all doors were thrown open as joyous policemen rushed to meet and hug the rescue force.

Sumit Pal didn’t join them. His eyes welling with tears, the middle-aged assistant sub-inspector (ASI) took out his cellphone and dialled his wife in Bandel.

“I am safe now, don’t worry. The forces have arrived,” the father of two young daughters spoke into the phone in a voice choked with emotion.

“We lived in constant fear for the past few months. It seems the worst is over,” said Pal, who was posted to Lalgarh police station 19 months ago.

Some 33 policemen — including an inspector-in-charge, three sub-inspectors and five ASIs — had been held virtually captive in the two-storey building since November, when the Maoist-backed People’s Committee against Police Atrocities dug up roads and declared Lalgarh a “liberated zone”.

“We were like hostages. With each passing day, the situation was getting more difficult. In the past few days, some local people even told us to pack up and leave,” said ASI Biswanath Aich.

Around 12.15pm, Praveen Kumar, deputy inspector-general (Midnapore range), entered the compound along with the central forces to receive a hero’s welcome from Lalgarh inspector-in-charge Gour Kanjilal and his men.

Soon, the senior officers went into a huddle inside the police station to chalk out their next course of action.

“I hadn’t stepped out for the past three days — not even to take a bath in the nearest pond,” Aich said after giving a tight hug to a central force jawan.

“We got really scared after the Ramgarh outpost was set ablaze. Everyday, People’s Committee members used to threaten us. But it’s different today.”

He said most of the men posted at the police station had not been able to visit their homes for the past seven or eight months. Nor had they much to do in their command area.

“I think the situation will change now and we will be able to discharge our responsibilities. Oh, how we longed for this day to come,” said a constable as he chatted happily with paramilitary jawans in the yard.