A senior Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) officer on Saturday addressed a media conference with his face covered with a black cloth, raising questions about the force`s morale after the death of 24 of its troopers in a Maoist attack on the Silda camp Monday.
EFR special Inspector General Benoy Chakraborty lambasted the authorities for "misusing" and "ill-treating" the EFR, but his efforts to remain unrecognisable attracted more attention than what he said at the media meet.
"I am puzzled why he did it. Even (West Bengal) Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh held a media meet at Silda with his face totally visible," a senior police officer said.
State Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta also led a ministerial delegation to the Salua camp in West Midnapore district Tuesday, braving the wrath of the kin of the dead jawans, and spoke to the people without bothering to cover his face.
Charging the authorities with "misusing" and "ill-treating" the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR), which lost 24 of its men in a Maoist attack in West Bengal Monday, Chakravorty claimed that his men had killed five ultras after being attacked.
Coming down heavily on state authorities, particularly West Midnapore Superintendent of Police Manoj Verma, for not providing proper infrastructure, EFR Special Inspector General Benoy Chakraborty told reporters that the decision to locate the Silda camp in a crowded area was "unprofessional".
"From the location of the camp and the poor infrastructure and security provided, one can conclude the EFR is being misused and ill-treated," a fuming Chakraborty said.
"I have on several occasions said it was not the proper place for the camp and wanted it to be shifted. I told the SP also. But he did not shift the camp," he pointed out.
"Now a lot is being said against me and my people. We are being blamed. I respectfully choose to differ with the critics," he said.
The EFR is a paramilitary force of the West Bengal police.
Chief Minister Buddahdeb Bhattacharjee and Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen have blamed lack of alertness on the part of the EFR jawans in the camp for the incident.
Chakraborty pointed out that the camp was located near a market and beside a health centre. "There was only one toilet which outsiders also used. There was no proper boundary wall for protection. The spot was close to a crowded market".
He said the tents housing the jawans were situated so close to each other that the jawans did not even have the manoeuvring space if they wanted to shoot while going from one tent to the other.
"Despite such adverse conditions, they shot dead five Maoists. I am proud of them. What they have done is indeed great," he said.
Twenty four EFR personnel and a civilian were killed in the daring Maoist attack on the Silda camp in the district.