The jawans at the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) camp here
had just returned from patrol duty tired last evening and were
in a leisurely mood waiting to partake the meal that was being
cooked only to be suddenly confronted by the marauding Maoists
who had made their way from Jharkand. Most of them were in
their track suits or lungis.
The attack left 24 jawans dead and a trail of devastation
after about 100 rebels who came mostly on motorbikes overran
the Shilda camp, 75 km from Midnapore town, opening fire and
lobbing hand-grenades in the biggest-ever offensive by Maoists
against security forces in West Bengal.
Three women were among the attackers who planted
landmines at the camp before they fled the scene, Police said.
At least 30 sophisticated arms, including Kalashnikovs,
AK series, Insas, Semi-Automatic rifles, were looted from the
camp, an official said.
Located inside the walled premises of a Primary Health
Centre on an arterial road crossing, the camp could
accommodate 48 jawans, but there were 36 when the assailants
swooped down. And in minutes, lives of 24 jawans were snuffed
Bodies lay strewn across the tents still smouldering
several hours after the daring attack. Some troopers who were
resting in their tents were burnt alive as the ultras set the
Terror-stricken villagers were seen witnessing the scene
from a distance.
The dazed colleagues of the victims were yet to come to
terms with the ferocity of the attack at the camp which was
bustling with activity just 24 hours ago.
"I was making rotis when I heard a loud explosion. Thena
bus arrived. They got down and started firing. Everyone
panicked. I ran. I could not take it anymore. I climbed over
the wall and escaped," an eyewitness at the camp Rakesh
Lepcha, a cook, said.
A visiting agency correspondent saw a few dazed survivors
loitering aimlessly inside the camp, in no mood to recollect
the nightmare that they went through.
"Please don't ask us anything," a jawan said.
One of his colleagues, however, was somewhat
forthcoming and agreed to give an account of the attack
although on condition of anonymity.
"They were around 100 and came on motorbikes. There were
three vehicles as well including a pick-up van. They first
started hurling grenades into the camp and some tents caught
fire. The sentries opened fire in self-defence, but the
Maoists fired from sophisticated weapons as the area plunged
into utter confusion," he said.
Most of the jawans present at the camp when the attack
was launched were killed in the firing that went on for nearly
half an hour. Some of them could, however, escape by scaling
the wall or through a wicket gate, he said.
Following the initial assault, the attackers rushed
inside the camp and set some tents ablaze in which the
furniture and personal belongings of the jawans were gutted.
The attack on the camp situated in this small market town
has generated a morbid fear among the residents a large number
of whom gathered outside the camp to take a look at the
A shopkeeper at the market said that some of the shops
outside the camp were also set afire by the Maoists. "They
came from two directions, but while leaving they fled towards
Binpur," he said.
Shilda (WB): A pile of charred tents, cots
and personal effects with blood spattered all over was all
that remained on Tuesday at an EFR camp when death came on bikes.
First Published: Tuesday, February 16, 2010, 18:40