New Delhi/Kolkata: With circumstances pointing to the fact that the latest Maoist attack in West Bengal – that led to the killing of 24 jawans - was all but waiting to happen, the Centre and the state government seem to have woken up to the need to review their anti-Naxal strategy.
It has emerged that the Eastern Frontier Rifles camp in Silda, West Midnapore had no sentries to guard the entrances; there were no watchtowers; the surrounding fence had one entire side missing; was located in the premises of a health centre in a crowded marketplace; and even had a toilet meant for use by the public – a perfect recipe for the Maoists to come and over-run the camp.
The 24 jawans of the paramilitary force had perished without giving a fight as 100-odd Maoists, who came on motorcycles and four-wheelers, swamped the camp with grenades and automatic fire.
The jawans were only sitting ducks for the attackers, as their weapons were not in reach and some of them were not even in uniform.
According to officials, most of the over 50 jawans present at the camp were either "whiling away their time in the camp or busy in the kitchen" at the time of the attack. What made matters worse was the fact that the jawans had not been taught the basics of guerrilla warfare.
The camp’s leader, a sub-inspector rank officer, was also away when his colleagues came under attack.
Even Union Home Secretary G K Pillai has expressed shock at the lapses, telling a newspaper: “If a police camp becomes a picnic spot, such a thing is bound to happen.”
Officials in the Home Ministry described the entire incident as a case of pure "unprofessionalism", saying the state police failed to secure the camp while fully knowing it was vulnerable to such attacks.
Home Minister P Chidambaram too yesterday admitted that there had been lapses in the Silda camp attack
West Bengal Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen has already admitted that there was an “intelligence failure”. State DGP Bhupinder Singh too acknowledged there were “lapses”.
The state government is also due to submit a detailed report on the attack to the Centre today.
“The Union Home Secretary has asked for a detailed report from us. We will send it by Wednesday. There might be an intelligence failure on the part of the police,” Sen said.
Meanwhile, investigations so far into the attack have hinted that the Maoists who attacked the camp came from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, while Lalgarh units gave them “local support”. There are also reports of the attack squad consisting of women fighters.
The final toll in the attack stands at 25 as a villager also died after being caught in the cross-fire during Monday’s attack.