Kolkata: The West Bengal government on Thursday ruled out an apology, as sought by Maoist leader Kisanji, for the “atrocities” committed on tribals at Lalgarh and blamed the ultras for bloodshed and violence in the restive West Midnapore district.
“There is no question of apologizing to Maoists who have committed murders and indulged in violence at Lalgarh and other areas. Why should we accept such a demand?” state chief secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty said.
Stating that the government was never averse to talks with tribals, the chief secretary said that efforts had been made in the past for discussions.
Up for task: Central force men at the Piraghata Chowk outpost for the final operation against Maoists at Lalgarh on Thursday. Swapan Mahapatra / PTI
In an interview to a Bengali TV channel, Kisanji, known as Koteswar Rao, demanded an apology by the state government and the Centre for “atrocities” on tribals over the years.
The news came after the Union government on Thursday started deploying hundreds of policemen to push back Maoist rebels who declared a “liberated zone” close to the state capital Kolkata, sparking unease among investors in the Communist-ruled state. The Maoists, who want to grab power through an armed struggle, have killed at least 10 government supporters this week from a tribal area about 170km from Kolkata, highlighting their growing presence.
The Communists have been in power in West Bengal for at least three decades, but the Maoists, who operate from jungle bases, have expanded their support among villagers by tapping their resentment at the government’s recent pro-industry push.
“The operation has started to reclaim the region from the Maoists who captured all police posts on Monday,” Kuldeep Singh, inspector general of police, said.
The violence has unnerved industry in a state where the government is trying to promote business, infuriating farmers whose violent protests forced the scrapping of a Tata Motors Ltd’ Nano car plant and a $3 billion chemicals hub complex.
Hundreds of tribal men and women were seen patrolling villages in Lalgarh area with bamboo sticks, axe and bows and arrows after declaring it a “liberated zone” this week.
JSW Steel Ltd, the country’s third largest steel producer, is setting up a $7 billion, 10 million tonnes steel plant near Lalgarh.
The conflict between industry and farmers reflects a wider battle in India, where efforts to modernize the densely populated country have often met with violent backlashes from villagers who make up at least half the country’s 1.1 billion plus population.
Chakraborty had said the Maoists were trying to use women and children as human shields against any police action. “This is inhuman and dangerous. The women are being dragged into this terror act. I’m warning them (the Maoists) through the media,” he said.
(Sujoy Dhar of ‘Reuters’ contributed to this story.)