PIRAKATA: The message from Writers' Buildings to show a human face while dealing with the warring populace in Lalgarh apparently hasn't reached the
force. Why else would a section of the state armed police (SAP) — terrified of IED explosions - catch hold of local youths and force them to poke around for hidden mines and explosives?
Acts like this will trigger more calls for vengeance and lead people to doubt the sincerity of the government's attempts to pacify the tribal villagers. It also exposes the lack of preparedness of the administration. There are just two CID bomb disposal experts stationed at Lalgarh. A second team is kept in reserve in Midnapore town to be deployed in case of 'VIP movement'.
A third is cooling its heels in Kolkata. There is not a single explosives expert with police forces anywhere else in the war zone. Ever since Friday evening's blast at Kuldiha, in which the Domkal SDPO's vehicle was hit and three policemen were injured, police have been wary of such attacks. T
he moment they come across any culvert, many policemen are scared to cross, fearing that Maoists might have planted an IED. Four blasts and half a dozen gunbattles have been reported ever since forces started their march to Lalgarh. Though no policeman has died, the guerrillas have scored a psychological victory — they have sown the seeds of fear and anxiety. It's this fear that has led some policemen, who are themselves not trained to detect explosives, to force local youth to do the dangerous job for them.
Eighteen-year-old Shambhu Ghosh, Madan Mahato (20) and Shakti Ghosh (23) from Dhangori village were among the unlucky locals. They have been on the run since last Thursday when security forces entered the village searching for Maoists.
On Sunday morning, they were having breakfast at a roadside eatery, close to the Pirakata camp, when a team of policemen surrounded them. One of them asked if they were from Dhangori village. "When we said yes, they asked us where we had been hiding for the last three days? We didn't give any answer. One of the policeman grabbed us by our collars and threatened to arrest us of we didn't work for them," Shambhu said.
The two were taken to Pirakata camp and given three-foot-long S-shaped rods (possibly taken from a construction site). They're then told to scan for any suspicious object — say, an abandoned bag or a box — lying on the roadside and use the rod to poke around and see if it triggers an explosion.