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Lack of alertness led to Silda strike: Buddhadeb

Special Correspondent


Committee set up to inquire into the attack

“We have to learn from our mistakes”


Kolkata: Admitting that there was “some lack of alertness” in the forces, leading to the Maoist strike on the Eastern Frontier Rifles’ camp at Silda in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district on Monday, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said here on Thursday that the decision to conduct an inquiry into the incident was aimed at ascertaining “the whole truth.”

Twenty-four jawans were killed in the attack which Mr. Bhattacharjee described as “heinous” and in which the jawans had become “sitting ducks.”

The inquiry will, among other things, look into reports that the attack was the handiwork of Maoist squads “not only from our State but also from States across our borders,” he said.

It will determine “how it [the attack] happened, the modus operandi, how many people were involved and what our police forces were doing at that point in time, among other issues.”

“This is because we have to learn from our mistakes,” the Chief Minister added.

“There was some lack of alertness. This is as much as I can say at this point in time,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said, referring to initial reports on the incident.

An inquiry committee has been appointed, the Chief Minister clarified even as he described as “very unfortunate two views [appearing] in newspapers” on security matters related to the incident expressed by two senior officials of the State government. This led to confusion over the nature of the inquiry. “I believe the mistake will not be repeated,” he added.

Officials of the Criminal Investigation Department, meanwhile, visited Silda to make their own inquiry into events that led to the attack.

Joint operations

Mr. Bhattacharjee did not think that the incident would affect joint security operations against the ultras. “The initiative is in our hands and we will go on the offensive very soon,” he said.

He said the Centre had sent some officials to probe the events. “Let them come. They are most welcome,” he added.

The Chief Minister said police stations and camps in the entire region including areas surrounding Silda were being alerted. The camp will be reconstructed at an alternative site, preferably in an area which is not densely populated, very shortly.

Besides an earlier decision of his government to provide Rs. 15 lakh each as compensation to the bereaved families, they would continue to receive the salary of the slain family members till the date they were to have retired.

The turn of events leading to the Maoist attack on the camp, the level of preparedness on the part of the forces and the need for fortifying existing thanas were discussed earlier at a meeting of the Cabinet.

Special battalion

The government will raise a special battalion of 939 police personnel to tackle Maoists in the three western districts, Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta said.

Briefing journalists at the Secretariat after the Cabinet meeting, Mr. Dasgupta said a special combat force of 3,500 personnel would also be raised by the government.

The police force would be strengthened with the induction of another 1,500 personnel, he added.

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