Kolkata: A tribal group spearheading a protest against police excesses in Lalgarh in West Bengal has called a 72-hour shutdown in three Maoist-affected districts from Sunday to protest the state government`s month-long operation against the rebels in the region.
People`s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) leader Lalmohan Tudu said: "Innocent people are being tortured every now and then in Lalgarh during the security forces` operations. People are fleeing their homes in fear of the security forces. Thus we`ve given a call for a 72-hour shutdown (July 19-21) in three districts."
The shutdown has been called in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts.
Tudu charged that cadres of the state`s ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), backed by the police, were "torturing innocent villagers in the name of the anti-Maoist operation".
"The police and Central forces have occupied all the school buildings in the area. Many students who are studying in Class 9 and 10 cannot attend their classes and normal life has virtually come to a standstill in Lalgarh (in West Midnapore)."
"We definitely want development but not at the cost of the day-to-day life of common people. We think that normal life must go on along with the police operation in the area," Tudu said.
Lalgarh, about 180 km from Kolkata, has been on the boil since November last year when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then Central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada.
Tribals launched an agitation, complaining of police atrocities after the blast, and virtually cut off the area from the rest of the district.
Last month the state government launched an operation -- of the state police and Central forces -- in Lalgarh to flush out the Maoists who had declared the zone "liberated".