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West Bengal: Joint Forces Harass NREGA Labourers

JHARGRAM: Mistaking them for Maoists, the joint forces allegedly attacked some labourers working at NREGA project sites in the Hatilot and Lakshmanpur areas of West Midnapore on Sunday morning.

The forces allegedly surrounded the workers in Hatilot, fired in the air and heckled them on Sunday morning. The security personnel also allegedly snatched the master roll from the project superviser and chased the labourers away.

Later, the forces clarified that they raided the forest in search of Maoist leaders, including PCPA's Asit Mahato, who were believed to have gathered at Bhulageria. Two divisions of the force left for Lakshmanpur from Dharampur in Lalgarh and the Bhimpur camp in Salboni. They took the workers to be Maoists and charged at them. Around 100 labourers were engaged in the renovation of ponds at Hatilot and Lakshmanpur. They ran for cover as the forces surrounded them in Hatilot. No injuries were reported.

In a related development, the joint forces arrested two persons from Lakshmanpur for their alleged links with the Maoists. Locals, however, claimed that Ganesh Mahato and Bhaktipada Mahato were to visit their in-laws in Lakshmanpur and had nothing to do with the rebels. Both of them showed their voter ID cards and tried to tell the forces that they had come to take their wives back home, but their pleas reportedly went unheeded.

Residents, meanwhile, blocked a road at Bhatmore to protest against the arrest of three locals from Salboni on Sunday. It was also alleged that a few village women were abused and heckled at Lakshmanpur when they were protesting against the arrest of Ganesh and Bhaktipada.

CRPF, meanwhile, rubbished reports of a landmine blast at Lakshmanpur on Sunday morning. "The Maoists are running short of arms and ammunition. Why would they waste a landmine when neither police nor the joint forces were within striking distance?" argued a senior CRPF officer. He added that the forces had lobbed mortar shells hoping to hit a Maoist base.

Police recovered a bag containing crude bombs from under a flyover at Rangamati in Midnapore town on Sunday. The spot is close to the residence of CPM state secretariat member Deepak Sarkar. A bomb disposal squad arrived at the spot to take stock of the situation.

On Saturday night, Maoists put up posters at Jhargram Raj College demanding withdrawal of Operation Green Hunt. They also fired in the air.

West Midnapore SP Manoj Verma confirmed that two persons had been arrested from Lakshmanpur. (Times of India, 22nd March 2010)