12 Dec 2007, 0215 hrs IST,TNN
LALGARH: The 53 CPM supporters, who were suspected to have been kidnapped by Maoists at Lalgarh in West Midnapore on Monday evening, returned on Tuesday. They had fled on seeing the armed Maoists approach their bus.
A 15-member Maoist group, which included one woman, attacked the private bus carrying CPM supporters between Narcha and Sijua villages in Lalgarh on Monday evening. The incident took place barely three hours after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee referred to the Maoists as 'cowards' at an open session of the CPM district conference at Kalaikunda in West Midnapore. According to police and political leaders, the main aim here was to prove the chief minister wrong.
"They (Maoists) are cowards. They live in jungles and flee to the jungles after committing their deeds," he had said. The Maoists chose a spot that is just 4 km from Lalgarh police station and 2 km from Kantapahari jungle to prove their bravery, police said.
The 53 people on the bus panicked at the sight of the Maoists and left the vehicle and ran. All of them returned to Lalgarh and Kantapahari on Tuesday morning. Only one, Murali Pal, was injured as he had tried to jump off the bus hurriedly, seeing the Maoists firing at them. Murali was admitted to Binpur-I block primary health centre, where he was interrogated by police.
Kalipada Murmu, one of the passengers, said: "The villagers did not open the doors though we screamed for help. We could not convince them that we were not Maoists. They had heard more than 20 rounds being fired. They panicked and put out the lamps."
Police recovered four packs of cartridges but no arrests have been made yet. Villagers alleged that the state armed police reached the spot only after an hour.
"It was decided that a force from Lalgarh police station would escort us. I thought I would drive the bus along with three others on the same route and reach Murar safely. But we got delayed as some of the leaders stopped for refreshments. When I saw the Maoists approaching, I stopped and tried to reverse, but a lorry was right behind. The Maoists started shouting "Run, run if you want to live" and fired at the wheels. A bullet hit the oil tank. We jumped out of the bus and ran," said Paltu Paria, the bus driver.
Sadhan Nandy, who was on the bus, felt the attackers had given the passengers the opportunity to escape. "They could have killed or injured several people," he said.
Arjun Mondal, the driver of the lorry that was behind the bus, said: "At first, I did not realize what was happening. But then I heard slogans hailing Maoists. I fled along with the bus passengers."
CPM's Lalgarh zonal committee secretary Joydev Giri said: "We feared that the Maoists had abducted some partymen as 53 of the 107 went missing. The Maoists just tried to scare us. Earlier, they had threatened us to quit the party and not attend the open session." On Tuesday, the state armed police force brought an anti-land mine vehicle and blocked the road, causing inconvenience to students on their way to school.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
12 Dec 2007, 0215 hrs IST,TNN