February 27, 2010


KOLKATA: The assault led by trained gunmen on the Silda camp of the eastern Frontier Rifles, mostly Gorkha personnel are members of the EFR – has been much in the headline-making lurid thoughts of the bourgeois media. The attack and its aftermath has been covered in what we can only call a fashion ‘more-than-in-depth,’ concocted tales dovetailed to facts - and ‘factions’ added in good measure to bolster the anti-Communist frame of mind of the scions of the ruling classes whose interests the craven and cowardly ‘Maoists’ faithfully subserve.

The attack, we would declare, was not a failure of the state government as Mamata banerjee would love to have us, well-nigh force us, to believe. When things become complex, one side of the two at difference with each other, become fraught with desperation.

Nonetheless we find it necessary contextualise the event, undoubtedly an incident of a very, very tragic variety, in a summary form. The Silda EFR camp has about 100 personnel. They are equipped with SLRs as well as .303 rifles plus other sharp assault weapons. They wear light gray-and-deep gray fatigue style uniform and wear protective headgear. Bullet proof vests are de rigueur only whenever they go out on patrol.

The attack came in the busy market day afternoon of 15 February. This is a common enough tactics of the ruling classes-sponsored ‘urban guerrillas; of the Latin American and the sub-Saharan African countries where, as in the case of the ‘Maoists,’ the gurilleros have always maintained a network of connection with the ruling élite of the respective regions, catering to the political command faithfully. During market time, we shall underline, the ruthless attackers can fire away, but not the police nor the para-military forces or ‘paras,’ as they are commonly known as.

The attackers had made repeated recce of the camp grounds, we learnt, posing variously as nautch girls, beggars, ‘disabled’ persons, and even ‘folk singers.’ Sources tell us that this they had carried out for months on end. Thus, the feed-back would be large enough to produce a thick folder of documents including photos. The attackers were at least 100-odd in number, including 20 women, and each armed with sophisticated assault rifles fitted with bayonets, as we found out during our visit to the spot, looking at the dead with multiple injuries, and a series of sad and tragic sights met us, leaving us atremble with pure rage.

Silda is tucked away in between Lalgarh and Belpahari, clearly a zone dominated by the presence of a large stretch of cover-giving forest and foliage, ever-green, so that winter makes no change to the skyline. An afternoon is the time when the morning patrol returns to base, the personnel take off the uniforms, and vests, and helmets, sling up the weaponry on the closets, remove the heavy-soled leathern jackboots, and nurse sore bodies and legs. The evening patrol goes out and away on foot tagged along and preceded by mine-sweeping four-wheelers, deep into the forest bridle paths.

This was the time when the ‘Maoists’ struck. They lobbed a series of patrol bombs or ‘Molotov cocktails,’ on the eastern and southern sides of the camp. As the panic-struck people ran helter-skelter, the killers opened up with whatever they had on hand. The area having been cleared, they then moved in rapid strides inside the camps.

The counter-firing from inside left at least twelve ‘Maoists’ dead, but that did not deter the attackers who shot and bayoneted to death 26 of the paras, systematically looted the armoury, went running to vehicles that had zoomed in from the fringe areas via perhaps a harsh command over Sat-Phones, piled the weapons and the dead murderers on the min-vans, and fled, one group towards Bankura, the other towards Jharkhand. They dragged off the dead attackers as is usual for them.

Seven ministers of the Bengal LF government led by Dr Asim Dasgupta went to the EFR base HQ at Salua the next day, the minute the clearance came from the police. They spoke to the bereaved family members. They assured them of all help, and despite provocation being made by a section of the people there who clearly owe allegiance not to the LF government, there was no such incident of jostle as blared on the television channels and splashed on the media headlines.

The more difficult enigma to unfold is the ‘reason why’ the left sectarians and their lackeys in the rainbow opposition coalition took the political decision to go on such a big-scale military action? Consider the following facts, if you will.

Over the past fortnight, 20-odd top-ranking ‘Maoist’ leaders and at least 50 ‘Maoist’ activists have been taken into custody and interrogated. Raids on hideout had produced laptops full of data on the outfit and its plans of action in the days to come. There has also been a clear caste-based split in the ranks of the killers of late, the Amiya Kundu fraction opposing, with arms, the Karan Hembram splinter. In the echelons of the higher castes, the Mahatos opposed all other high-caste compradres, especially the Vaishyas.

‘Kishanji’ no longer dares speak to the media openly. Another shadowy killer ‘Vikash’ has mysteriously disappeared, and sources believe that he may well have been killed or left seriously injured in a police action last month near Dharampur. The armed split between the now-incarcerated Chhatradhar Mahato-led PCAPA and the ‘Maoist’ squads of the Lalgarh block has come into the open. The metropolis-based ‘civil society’ would prefer Mamata Banerjee, Railway committees, fat perks et al, to the wilderness of politics, members of the ruling élite as they very much are.

However, certainly by far the most important factor is that the villagers are no longer fearful of the profile of the ‘Maoist’ gunmen whom they perceive on odd hours along the entire western part of the red clay zone of Bengal. It would be unhistorical to read too much into this as some well-wishers of us have done to the extent that the villagers are seen to be rebelling against the mightily armed marauders. This will ultimately happen – and this is what causes the killers an overwhelming fear to be felt creeping in. In between, the CPI (M) has been active in organising the mass protest leading into mass resistance here and there.

Economics is another factor. The ‘Maoists’ have carried on sans investment a lucrative trade in felling trees, logging them, and establishing a nexus with the forest mafia. This could only be done with at least a reluctant, fear-laden participation of the rural masses. This chain of exploitation has been snapped in very many areas as the tree-cutters, the headload carriers, and the forestry smugglers have learnt that getting cosy with the 'Maoists' was costing them too much—in terms of livelihoods as well as lives.

In the meanwhile, Mamata Banerjee has blamed the state government for the tragedy that unfolded at Silda. The central government in the respective ministry has wondered about a ‘failure’ of the state government. So, what is new?

What is new is the continuously rising curve of people’s anger at the killings going on. This shall be a vastly worrying factor for the guilty whose hands have been seen dipped in the blood of the innocent, too many times now.(INN)

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