Monday, November 29, 1999

Day after, red alert, confusion about identification in Lalgarh

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Even as the security forces and the state police officers were busy ascertaining the identity of the Maoists killed in Wednesday's encounter at Salboni's Ranja forest, a red alert has been sounded in the Maoist-affected areas for a possible retaliation from the outfit.Going by past experience, Maoists generally plan their attacks during bandhs and the CRPF and the government is concerned about the five-day bandh called by the Maoists and the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) from Friday. The bandh is meant to coincide with the first anniversary of joint operations. They demand a withdrawal of the joint forces and mourn the death of the cadres.While a majority of those killed seemed to be in their teens — between 15-18 years — conflicting claims were made about their identities. The state police have identified six Maoists, but the state committee of the CPI(Maoists) provided different names for them.As per police records, six of the bodies identified were of Ram Murmu, Arjun, Sagen Mahato, Bela, Lakshmi and Basanti. They belonged to the Lalgarh squad led by Bikash. The arrested Maoist has been identified as Rameswar Murmu of Mahulbani village, close to Ranja forest in Salboni."After considering all intelligence inputs from our network and after interrogating arrested Maoists, we are convinced that Arjun was a senior member of the squad led by Bikash," said West Midnapore SP Manoj Verma. "He had come from Jharkhand and used to operate in the Jharkhand-Bengal border."Rameswar, the young cadre arrested during yesterday's operation, is in shock,Verma said. "He was unable to speak at first, but today, he started speaking. He told us that this was for the first time that he witnessed this kind of an encounter. He was a newcomer and was never a part of any operation before."While four of the Maoists were locals, Ram Murmu and Sagen Mahato were residents of Salboni village. "Ram and Sagen used to operate in the Lalgarh-Dharampur region. They are 15 to 16 years old," said a senior police officer.Bela, the eldest female cadre, was a 20-year-old who used to operate in the Bhulaveda region."Bela was present in several important operations," the officer said. "She was described as a fierce female fighter of the squad and trained by Jagori Baskey, another dreaded cadre."

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