Kolkata: The West Bengal government on Wednesday admitted it had some intelligence warnings that Maoists were "assembling" in the area around Shilda police camp which was attacked in the biggest offensive by Naxals in the state.
The admission by the government came a day after an outraged Centre slammed the Left Front government expressing dismay at the "unprofessional, incompetent, untrained and inadequate" response of the state police force to the Maoist attack on Monday evening.
24 jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) were killed in the deadliest-ever strike by Naxals on their camp at Shilda in West Midnapore district.
The state government also ordered an inquiry into the incident and said "action" would be taken against senior officers if they were found wanting.
"It is not a clear case of intelligence failure. There was intelligence report that the Maoists were assembling in the area, though there was no specific information that they may attack the EFR camp," West Bengal Home secretary Ardhendu Sen told reporters after a high level meeting which reviewed the situation in the wake of the attack.
Asked why no step was taken when the government had in its possession the intelligence report, Sen said the report had come to its hand at 2 PM only, a bare three hours before the attack and it had taken time for the information to percolate down to the lower level.
Refuting the charges by the Centre that the EFR did not have proper training to combat the Maoists, he said, "It is not correct. They are a highly motivated, disciplined and well-trained force."
Heart-rending scenes were witnessed when bodies of all the 24 EFR jawans were handed over to their relatives this morning at Salua camp of the para-military forces near Jhargram for last rites.
Top government officials differ on terms of Shilda probe
Two top state government officials today contradicted each other on the purpose of inquiry into the killings of 24 EFR jawans in the Maoist attack at Shilda in West Bengal.
Home secretary Ardhendu Sen said that the probe would recommend action to be taken against senior officers who were found wanting, while Director-General of state police Bhupinder Singh described it as "just a fact-finding" probe.
"An official inquiry has been ordered into the incident," Sen told reporters here after a high level meeting which reviewed the situation in the wake of the Maoist attack.
"It is not a clear case of intelligence failure. There was intelligence report that the Maoists were gathering in the area, though there was no specific information that they may attack the EFR camp," he said.
Asked if action would be taken against senior officers if they were found wanting in the incident, he said, "Let us complete the probe. A specific charge against any officer has to be established. If anyone is found guilty, action will be taken."
Describing it as "a fact-finding probe", the DGP, on the other hand, said, "this type of inquiry is ordered after any such incident in order to find lapses and suggest steps to prevent it in future. This has nothing to do with fixing responsibility or taking action against any officer".
Asked why no step was taken when the government had in its possession the intelligence report, Sen said the report had come into its (the state government`s) hand barely three hours before the attack and it had taken time for the information to get down to the lower level.
He said the sentries at the EFR camp had retaliated in which one Maoist was killed and some others were injured. "But there was some lapse no doubt," he said.
Asked if the state government would send a report to the Centre on the Shilda incident, the home secretary said that the DGP has been asked to prepare a report for the purpose.
The DGP said the CID had already started a separate inquiry into the Maoist attack in Shilda.
Reiterating that it was a setback for the security forces, the DGP said that the EFR personnel were not prepared in the camp to thwart any attack.
He felt that irrespective of intelligence reports which kept coming all the time, security force personnel in the Maoist-hit areas should always be on the alert.
It seemed that a Maoist strike force from neighbouring Jharkhand had launched the attack with the help of their local associates and fled after the operation, the officer added.