Belpahari in West Midnapore, the Maoist hotbed, has turned into a fortress with security agencies manning every nook and corner of the the block on the eve of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s visit to the area to review projects that her government had announced for the poor in a bid to alienate them from the Left wing ultras.
Amid intelligence reports that the Maoists could abduct senior Trinamool leaders to proclaim their supremacy in the area, the security agencies have told the leaders to avoid travelling after dusk. The Chief Minister, who often breaks security cordon and interacts with people, has been requested not to do so during her visit to the area. Her name along with Railway Minister Mukul Roy and MP Subhendu Adhikary reportedly figure on the Maoists’ hit-list, as revealed during the interrogation of top Maoist leader Bikram, said government sources. Anti-landmine vehicles have also been pressed into service.
This will be the first visit of Mamata to Belpahari after becoming the chief minister. Belpahari was declared a “liberated zone” by the Maoists in 2000. In the next 12 years, policemen hardly went to the place — considered to be the second home of top Maoist leader Kishenji.
Following Kisheni’s death in a gun battle with security personnel in West Midnapore last year, the government slowly began to mobilise forces in the area. Over the last one year, security forces claimed of “reclaiming a large portion of Belpahari from the Maoists”, but fear of ambush by the Maoists persists. The area borders Jharkhand, and Maoist leaders are reported to be operating from across the border.
The Chief Minister is scheduled to hold an administrative meeting at Belpahari Block Development Office and later she will address a rally in one of the most insurgency-affected blocks bordering Jharkhand.
Mamata is expected to urge the Maoists to follow Suchitra Mahato and Jagri Baske, two Maoist leaders who have laid down arms. She is also expected to highlight the projects that her government has adopted for the Maoist-affected Junglemahal.