Kolkata, Jan 07 (Agencies): Six persons, including a woman, were killed and over 20 injured in firing by suspected armed CPI-M cadres in Lalgarh in West Midnapore district on Friday even as the administration attributed it to a political clash.

The villagers, who had gathered to protest against demands made by Marxist armed cadre that they volunteer for night patrols and arms training, were fired at from a house at Netai village in Belatikri gram panchayat in Lalgarh police station area.

"There is an woman among the six dead. The injured have been rushed to hospital where the condition of five is serious," a senior police officer said.

Villagers alleged that armed CPI-M cadre living in the house of a CPI-M activist Ranjit Dandapat for the past four months and for whom they were forced to cook and wash clothes, fired on them from inside.

Home Secretary Gyan Dutta Goutama said the incident was the result of a political clash between the Trinamool Congress and the CPI-M.

Asked whether there was a Maoist hand in the firing, Goutama said, "I don't know of any such thing. The detailed report is yet to come. Once it comes, then I will be able to tell you what exactly happened."

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee accused the CPI-M of resorting to the politics of terror by using its 'harmads' (armed cadre).

Banerjee, who took out a procession with the bodies of three party supporters killed in Burdwan yesterday, said, "They (CPI-M) are claiming that we are doing politics with dead bodies. But they are doing the politics of killing and terror. Let them stop it, we will also not parade bodies."

Banerjee said Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had taken exception to the word 'harmad' used by Home Minister P Chidambaram in his letter to him on law and order in the state.

"But those who are resorting to such killings cannot be called anything else but harmads," she said before leaving for Lalgarh.

Meanwhile, the Centre is closely monitoring the situation and is in constant touch with the state government to ensure security in the troubled-torn areas.

The Home Ministry is in constant touch with the government and received a preliminary report about the Lalgarh incident where six persons, including a woman, were killed and over 20 injured when suspected armed CPI-M cadres fired upon them on Friday.

The villagers suspecting that a house was being used by CPI-M cadre as a camp gheraoed it but were fired from inside at Netai village in Belatikri gram panchayat in Lalgarh police station area, leading to the casualties.

Sources said enough central paramilitary forces were stationed in violence-hit West Midnapore district to assist West Bengal Police to deal with the law and order situation there and it was up to the state government for their optimum utilisation to curb violence and maintain peace.

The fresh violence came days after a "letter war" between Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on the unabated killing of political workers in West Bengal, in the run up to the Assembly elections which are due in May.

In a letter to Bhattacharjee on December 22, Chidambaram questioned West Bengal government on its use of central forces in the state saying the killing of activists of political parties point to a "virtual collapse" of law and order there.

Chidambaram's strong letter to Bhattacharjee came after ally Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee alleging misuse of central security forces in the state and offering to quit if her charge was proved wrong.

The Home Minister had also asked the state government to ensure that the armed cadres belonging to 'harmad vahini' (looters and pirates) are "immediately disarmed and demobilised".

Bhattacharjee and CPI-M hit back at the home minister, accusing him of being "partisan" with a motive to "please" Trinamool Congress and serve its "political interests". He also objected Chidambaram's use of the word 'harmad' saying it was a "nasty" word.

Later, in another letter Chidambaram invited Bhattacharjee to New Delhi for a frank discuss on this extremely sensitive issue and agree upon the way forward.