Jangalmahal on high alert

MIDNAPORE: Just a day before chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s visit to Lalgarh, the state government has alerted all officers working in the Janhalmahal. In the wake of the abduction of Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar, all officers in the state have been told not to move around without adequate information and protection. They have also been asked to inform police in advance if they assess any threat perception. It is believed that the Union home ministry has sent an alert to all Maoist-affected states, including West Bengal. “This has been done in view of recent developments. A security detail for the CM’s visit to Lalgarh is also being put in place,” said West Midnapore SP Sunil Chowdhury.

West Midnapore district magistrate Surendra Gupta refused to comment on the specifics. Gupta merely said there is a security protocol to be adhered and those are being stressed. West Midnapore police superintendent Sunil Chowdhury did admit that all senior state government officers working in Jangalmahal have been alerted. “This has been done in view of certain recent developments. A security detail for the chief minister’s impending visit to Lalgarh is also being put in place. It would not be possible to comment further.”

Jangalmahal has around 27 blocks of which the most – 11 – are in West Midnapore. A BDO is deputed in each of these blocks, with two sub-divisional officers (SDO) to supervise their work. Each of these officers will now be provided round-the-clock security – in some cases even a personal security officer (PSO). In addition, the local police stations have to be mandatorily informed should these officers embark on any field visit, even to discharge their official duties.

The police action may appear to be a knee-jerk reaction but it is actually far from one. Abductions – primarily of government employees – have been a recurrent theme in these parts. Worser still, most of these victims are still untraceable. Months within the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-government gave its nod for Operation Greenhunt in June 18, 2009, two State Armed Police constables were abducted barely a month later heading towards Lalgarh’s Dharampur police camp. In January 22, last year, two skeletons were recovered close to the spot from where Shabbir Ali Mollah and Kanchan Gorai had gone missing. A DNA test revealed the skeletons were not of them.

The list is long. In November 19, 2010, ICDS worker Sampriti Mahato went missing from Jhargram’s Belatikri, never to found till this day. In July 2, 2010 Ajit Giri, Birihari Vidyapeeth’s Geogrpahy para teacher, went missing never to be found. His wife Reena had infact met chief minister Mamata Banerjee during her first visit to Jhargram after taking the reins of the state, pleading for her help. Ajit is yet to be traced.

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