Tribals demand release of detained villagers in Midnapore

Kolkata, March 7 (IANS) Hundreds of tribal women Sunday staged a protest at a police station in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district to demand release of 37 villagers detained during the joint forces’ search for an abducted school teacher.

The demonstration took place at Goaltore police station in the district. Police said the villagers were detained for interrogation as they tried to obstruct the security personnel during a search operation in the village.

The police and central paramilitary forces launched a massive manhunt in parts of West Midnapore and its neighbouring Bankura district in search of abducted school teacher Rajat Dule.

‘We carried out intense combing operations in bordering areas of Bankura and West Midnapore today (Sunday) to search for the abducted school teacher. There were also some incidents of firing between the joint forces and the Maoists,’ Inspector General of Police (Western range) Zulfiqar Husan told IANS.

According to sources, the joint forces opened fire at the Maoists near Bhallukbasa forest at Kadambandhi village in West Midnapore district and the gun battle continued for more than three hours.

On the casualties reported in the firing, Hasan said: ‘We are not sure about the exact number but some people definitely got injured in the heavy gunfight.’

Dule, a former Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) supporter, was abducted Friday by a group of suspected Maoists in Bankura district’s Sarenga village, 160 km west of here.

‘We are trying to find Dule as soon as possible and our search operation will continue in the region,’ Husan said.

Earlier, the Sidhu-Kanhu Gana Militia — the armed wing of Maoist-backed People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) — claimed responsibility for Dule’s abduction and gave 48 hours time Friday for release of six villagers, arrested on charges of carrying out Maoist activities at Sarenga to set him free.

Meanwhile, Dule’s family members appealed to the Maoists to release him as the 48 hours period was about to come to an end Sunday.

‘We request Kishenji (top Maoist leader Koteswar Rao) to release my father. He was not involved in any kinds of political activities in the recent past,’ Dule’s daughter said.

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