Rage spreads to Bankura Terms set for Lalgarh talks

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  • Published 20.11.08

Nov. 19: The tribals’ agitation in West Midnapore today spread to neighbouring Bankura with armed villagers blocking the highway connecting the two districts in Maoist-infested Sarenga.

The Santhal organisation Bharat Jakat Majhi Marwa placed trees on the road to express solidarity with the agitation against alleged police atrocities in Lalgarh, 45km away.

Leading a rally at Khoer Pahari, Sibaprasad Murmu alleged that the police often arrest innocent villagers after branding them Maoists. “So we have decided to paralyse the administration here, as in Lalgarh.”

Among other things, the Bankura protesters wanted all night raids to stop.

Sushil Soren of Tanti Danga said the agitation would be intensified from Friday if the Lalgarh stalemate was not resolved.

A large police contingent stood watching till 2pm fearing a backlash if force was applied to remove the blockades.

Talks yielded results around 3pm. Five hours after the blockades were put up, they were lifted from Nekra Pahari and Tanti Danga. But the road continued to be blocked at Khoer Pahari and Karbhanga.

“We told the villagers that the problem (in Lalgarh) was not related to Bankura and they should not disturb peace here. We also promised to look into their allegations like police high-handedness and arrest of innocent people. However, night patrolling cannot stop as the area is a known Maoist belt,” said superintendent of police Vishal Garg.

In the evening, three CPM leaders who had gone to persuade the tribals to withdraw the blockades were beaten up.

In another part of Bankura, armed tribals marched to the office of the Mejia block development officer and submitted a charter of demands similar to that in Sarenga.

The People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, which is leading the protests in Lalgarh, today invited the administration for talks on November 21 but set conditions. The meeting has to take place at Dalilpur and the West Midnapore superintendent of police must attend it.

The committee wants the SP to hold his ears and apologise for the police raids and detentions since the landmine blast on November 2.

“We will step up our movement in other parts of the district if the SP doesn’t come for the talks,” committee secretary Sidhu Soren said.

The district police, however, could not assure the tribal leaders about the SP’s presence. “They (the police) wanted to know what was the guarantee of his security in Dalilpur. We told them it was their headache. They told us a group of 25 top Maoists were camping in Dalilpur,” said Soren.

SP Rajesh Kumar Singh said: “It won’t be a wise decision to go there. We want to avoid untoward incidents. They can hold talks in any place like the Lalgarh police station, the block office or the local school.”

However, home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti said in Midnapore town that the government was ready to hold talks anywhere, “be it Midnapore, Jhargram or Lalgarh”.

In Midnapore town today with the state police chief, Chakrabarti met representatives of six Santhal organisations led by the Majhi Marwa.

“Many of the demands are just but it is also important to find out who all are exploiting the grievances. We will not tolerate terrorism in the name of a movement,” the home secretary said after the meeting.

The committee branded the six Santhal outfits that helped the administration remove blockades from Jhargram yesterday and attended today’s peace talks traitors. “They betrayed us by helping the administration,” said Sidhu.