The Silda attack: Understanding the role of the EFR camp in reoccupation strategies

February 23, 2010

February 23, 2010

There has been a recent attack on a Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) camp in Silda in West Midnapur district, West Bengal, in which 24 EFR jawans have lost their lives. It is necessary to examine the function of this particular camp and its relation with local politics, to understand the tactical reasons behind the attack conducted by the Maoists.

The main function of the EFR has been to escort CPI(Marxist) harmads (local term for armed vigilante group of the CPIM) when they go on operations to “reoccupy” tribal villages in the Lalgarh belt and to provide protection to the 22 harmad camps that have been set up in the area over the past three months. Six of these camps have already shut down following the attack, and it has been reported that the CPI(M) is now afraid to provide security to these camps (a small press report on this from the Bengali daily Ekdin is given below).

These harmad camps, filled with mercenaries brought in by Sushanta Ghosh from the Goaltore-Garbeta area, are wreaking havoc in the area in the name of “reoccupying” villages, in the same way as in Nandigram. And they are being provided security by the EFR and the West Bengal police, who are escorting the harmads when they are attacking villages or are working hand-in-gloves with the harmads. Sushanta Ghosh, it will be remembered, is the state minister in charge of the area, who has maintained a brutal stranglehold on the adivasis (the infamous “ghoskar bahini”, the armed cadre force of the CPI(M), is named after him and Dipak Sarkar).

A recent incident may shed light on the protective role played by the EFR camp in the area. Kajal Soren was a PCAPA activist who was killed in a CRPF firing, with three others, while he was working in his field. Three days after his death, his wife Sabitri Soren, was on her way to lodge a complaint at the police station in Salboni, when she was waylaid by CPI(M) harmads who brutally raped her. Her senseless body was then handed over to EFR jawans in the Salboni camp, who killed her. There are eyewitnesses who saw her senseless body being dragged to the EFR camp, after which her raped and dead body was discovered lying in fields nearby. Activists are in the process of a judicial case on this incident, and the local press has reported it.

The EFR camp in Sildah was set up by occupying a government health centre, the only one in Sildah, because the CPI(M) party bosses demanded that the camp be set up near their office. A report from the Daily Telegraph on this is attached. This illustrates the protective role played by the EFR in relation to reoccupation strategies, as well as the continuing tradition of militarization of schools, hospitals, and other essential services in an area of already utter destitution.

As has been widely reported, the jawans were involved in rampant alcoholism and prostitution. There has been considerable local support in this particular action, and there have been no civilian deaths.


Ekdin report on withdrawal of Harmad camps

February 18 2010

Staff Report, Medinipur: Apprehending another Shilda-like Maoist attack the CPM is withdrawing its Harmad (local term for armed vigilante group of the CPM) camps from the area. Party leaders have decided that the number of Joint Forces camps would be cut down in the Jangalmahal region. Camps stationed in villages bordering forests would be wound up as soon as possible. Depending on evolving situation the hidden Harmad dens would be set up at a later date. To recapture Lalgarh, Salboni in the Keshpur, Garbeta style around two dozens Harmad camps had been erected in the Jangalmahal. Carefully selected Harmads had been stationed there. They also shelter modern arms and ammunitions apart from other essential supplies.

The Maoists had launched an unprecedented offensive on Monday evening. Concluding a flawless attack in a densely populated location they retreated to their secret hide out. The incident has stirred up CPM party machinery coniderably. Terror has gripped the party. Even the leaders are fearing a Maoist attack.

There are twenty two Harmad camps in Goaltor, Salboni, Medinipur Main block. Six of them were withdrawn on Wednesday according to party sources. They were located in the densely forested parts of Goaltor and Salboni. It is also learnt that the CPM has wound them up after such demands were made by the Harmads. However camps of mercanary forces in Kashijor, Sundra, Enayetpur, Kankaboti have been left intact. After the Shilda incident the Harmads do not want to stay in unprotected camps. After that unparallaled event the village recapturing venture of the CPM has also suffered a big set back. In the last two days the operation has virtually collapsed, the Harmads are reluctant to extend it to new areas.