Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lalgarh shimmering with anger

LALGARH: The trust had been eroding fast, but after Monday's attack, tribals in Lalgarh have turned completely against the police. The People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) is setting up a village security force to guard from police and CPM supporters. The hostility is out in the open now, with PCPA leaders demanding that policemen leave the villages immediately.

Three villagers were shot dead at Khasjangal on Monday and villagers claimed that Lalgarh OC Susanta Rajbanshi and his team did nothing to stop the violence. The PCPA leadership has called a 48-hour strike in the three districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia from Wednesday onwards.

"The attackers opened fire in the presence of police, who did nothing to stop them. Instead they allowed safe passage to the killers. We don't need the police here anymore ," said Chhatradhar Mahato, PCPA leader. Two youths from each village will be recruited as guards. "These guards will alert us in case there is an attack by CPM-backed goons or police," added Mahato.

Blockades put up at several places along the Lalgarh-Ramgarh road remained in place through the day. Later in the evening, the road was cut off at Jhitka by the committee's members.

Till late on Tuesday night, police have not been able to identify the "unknown gunmen" who opened fire. "Investigations are on to trace the assailants. Family members of none of the victims have lodged a complaint," said Kuldiep Singh, IG (Western zone).

At Gopalnagar, the villagers were mourning the death of Rajaram Mandi and his son Lakhiram . A bullet had pierced Lakhiram's chest and another his father's abdomen. A marginal cropper, Mandi owned a five-bigha plot which was their only source of earning. "My sister-in-law Golapi is three months pregnant. We haven't broken the news to her yet," said Tusu, Lakhiram's sister.

PCPA leaders are camping at Khasjangal. With the attacks, the tribal leaders are confident of getting support from more places. "We have decided to set up two more branches at Dalilpur and Dharampur under our central committee," said Mahato.

With CPM on the back foot, the Opposition parties have quickly jumped into the fray to garner tribal support before the Lok Sabha elections.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee will visit Lalgarh on Wednesday. Her party supporters from Midnapore town visited Khasjangal on Tuesday expressing solidarity with the tribals. Not to be outdone, district Congress has called a 12-hour Jhargram strike to protest against the killings.