Initiating multi-sided offensive against Maoists, security forces have moved closer to the rebel stronghold of Ramgarh by marching from Kadasole in the north and Lalgarh in the south, crossing dense forests, defusing landmines and firing mortars on the way in West Midnapore district.
On the tenth day of offensive to flush out Maoists rebels from the area, the security forces faced bullet fire from the rebels, supposedly emanating from automatic and semi-automatic weapons looted earlier from police camps. However, they could not obstruct the marching security forces by dint of the overwhelmingly superior firepower of the joint central and West Bengal state police forces.
It may be mentioned that the Maoists set ablaze a police camp in Ramgarh and drove out civil administration earlier this month.
In the multi-sided offensive, one group of security forces moved from Kadasole village, where they had camped overnight after setting out from Goaltore near West Midnapore’s border with neighbouring Bankura district, and crossed the Maoist-infested Mohultala forest to inch closer to Ramgarh.
The Maoists, firing from two sides in the jungle, retreated as soon as the security forces fired back.
The forces moved in a V formation with the state’s armed police moving in double file on the main road and the paramilitary troopers giving them cover by moving through jungles on both sides of the roads, looking for Maoists in nearby villages and trying to identify landmines.
“We will reach Ramgarh in the next couple of hours. And then we will launch combing operations from various sides to track down the Maoists. We have not suffered any casualties,” said Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia in Kolkata.
Another team of security men, which moved out from the base camp at Lalgarh for Ramgarh, was confronted with strong resistance from the ultras at Amdanga located in vicinity of another Maoist den of Chokhasole jungles.
Road had been dug and trees razed down to create obstruction for advancing forces, also there were posters there for people with an instruction to shun the area as landmines had been planted there.
A tribal body, People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), backed by the Maoists, had since last November established virtual control over 42 villages in Lalgarh and surrounding areas where the state administration had virtually abdicated its role to hundreds of Maoist extremists.
The troopers have so far re-established the writ of the state in more than half of these villages.
Lalgarh has been on the boil since November when a landmines exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada.
Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, angry tribals backed by Maoists launched an agitation, virtually cutting off the area from the rest of West Midnapore district.
Maoists are active in areas under 21 police stations in the state’s three western districts – West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.