Withdraw forces from Bengal’s Maoist areas: Mahasweta

Kolkata, May 6 (IANS) Alleging that many people, including Maoists, have been jailed without trial in West Bengal, Magsaysay award winning writer Mahasweta Devi Monday said human rights groups would ask Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to withdraw forces from Maoist areas.

“We have been demanding for many years that joint forces should be withdrawn from (West Bengal) and tribal areas should not be described as Maoist-affected. We will submit a memorandum to the chief minister on these issues,” the octogenarian writer-social activist told mediapersons.

“Without a trial, so many people, some branded as Maoists, others tagged as Naxalites, have been locked up in prison by the government,” she said.

Dhiraj Sengupta, general secretary of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), said that “200 tribals in the state’s Maoist affected areas are still in prison”.

Criticising Banerjee, he said: “What she could have done for the tribals, she has not done.”

Sengupta added: “Banerjee had promised to get the joint security forces withdrawn from Jangalmahal, political prisoners released and boost development in the tribal-dominated areas. On the contrary, false charges were being slapped on tribals in Jungalmahal.”

Jangalmahal is a forested area comprising West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts, known as the hub of Maoists.

“They are being told, if you join (Banerjee led) ruling Trinamool Congress, the cases will be withdrawn,” Sengupta said.

She said that development projects announced by the Trinamool Congress government in the state were ineffective while tribals still faced police torture, rape and pillage.

Joint forces comprising central paramilitary troopers and state police personnel were deployed in the Junglamahal in July 2009 to combat Maoists, who had made the area a virtual “free zone” by torching police camps and offices of the then ruling CPI-M and driving out the civil administration.

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