The adivasis or tribals of Jhargram subdivision in West Bengal are up in arms. They have felled trees to block roads or simply dug them up and cut themselves off from the rest of the state for over a week. It is to protest police excesses against them, after a landmine blast by suspected Maoists barely missed Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Ram Vilas Paswan on November 2.
Of ten people arrested for the blast, three were school boys. The adivasis gheraoed the police station and forced their release. Now they want more.
"Our problem is police torture and the harassment of our women and children in the guise of a hunt for Maoists," said Dilip Hembrom, adivasi activist.
At Lalgarh on November 14, an adivasi delegation placed 11 demands before the administration, including the removal of police and CRPF camps from the Maoist-affected area. But some of the demands give the story away, like the release of all those people arrested in connection with Maoist cases in the last 10 years.
"All Maoist cases should be withdrawn, that is not possible. Again they were asking CRPF camps should be shifted. That is not possible," said R A Israel, Additional District Magistrate.
The talks ended inconclusively.
"There has been no solution to the problem. We have only placed our demands," said Sidhu Soren, adivasi delegate.
So for 10 days now, the Jhargram area is cut off. In the face of public fury, the police have been forced to handle the situation with kid gloves. Meanwhile, the investigation into the landmine blast has been pushed to the backburner.