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Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 14:48 UK

Clashes at Maoist 'area' in India

Protesters fell trees to construct roadblocks to prevent the paramilitary forces from entering the villages of Lalgarh in the Midnapore district, some 200km west of Kolkata on June 18, 2009
Protesters have blocked roads with trees to keep the authorities out

Indian security forces have clashed with protesters in the Lalgarh region of West Bengal state, where Maoist rebels have taken control.

Hundreds of baton-wielding police charged and fired tear gas shells at a crowd of almost 3,000 in Pirakata.

Villagers backed by the rebels have blocked roads to prevent security forces from entering Lalgarh.

The state government has called in more than 1,000 paramilitary troops to retake the area after police fled.

Meanwhile, the bodies of four more communist workers have been found, taking the number of party workers killed in recent violence to 10.

The four bodies were found outside Lalgarh. The men were among six party workers who police suspect were kidnapped by the rebels.

Maoist-linked violence has killed 6,000 people in India over the past 20 years.

'Bloodbath' fears

Reports from Lalgarh say tension is running high in the area as the villagers have formed "human shields" to prevent the security forces from moving in and wresting control of the area.

Map

West Bengal interior minister Ardhendu Sen has appealed to villagers to allow the security forces to enter Lalgarh.

"Please don't get used by the Maoists. Please move away. We don't want a bloodbath," Mr Sen said in an appeal to the villagers.

Separately, rebel leader Kishanji told the BBC in a telephone interview that the federal and state governments should stop troops from entering the area.

He said the government should hold meetings with the local people to learn about their grievances.

The tribespeople-dominated Lalgarh area in West Bengal's West Midnapore district has been under the virtual control of the rebels since November.

Armed rebels are now reportedly patrolling roads there.

Over the past few days, villagers backed by the rebels have taken over more villages in the area and burnt down and demolished offices belonging to the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M).

'Liberated zone'

The BBC's Amitabh Bhattashali in Calcutta says hundreds of CPI(M) workers have left Lalgarh in recent days.

A Communist party office set on fire by villagers in Lalgarh
Communist party offices have been set on fire by villagers in Lalgarh

Maoists claimed it as their first "liberated" zone in West Bengal.

Our correspondent says that taking control of Lalgarh is part of a long-term plan for the Maoists.

The area encompasses vast tracts of the forests of West Midnapur, Purulia and Bankura districts of West Bengal and adjoins parts of the states of Jharkhand and Orissa.

Violence in Lalgarh began last November after West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya narrowly escaped a landmine blast blamed on the rebels.

Protests were launched when a number of locals were arrested on suspicion of attempting to assassinate him.


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