Bullet-ridden bodies of jawans lying in pools of blood, a few others charred beyond recognition, makeshift tents in which they lived gutted, and heavily armed security personnel guarding the site amid a general atmosphere of fear and apprehension — this was the scene at the Silda camp a day after the Maoist carnage that claimed the lives of 24 jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles.

An undeclared bandh prevailed in the area surrounding the camp, which was at the heart of the bustling Silda marketplace. While all the shops remained closed, curious onlookers gathered at several corners.

Sophisticated arms stolen

The personal belongings of former occupants of the camp lay scattered on the road in front of the camp. The door of the armoury was wide open, as the Maoists looted all the weapons in Monday’s attack. According to the police, around 40 sophisticated firearms were stolen.

It is clear that the ultras took maximum advantage of the positional disadvantage of the camp, and even Bhupinder Singh, West Bengal’s Director-General of Police who came for a visit to the spot on Tuesday, admitted to the fact.

“Since it was located in a built-up area, the jawans found it difficult to retaliate when attacked as there was the possibility of collateral damage,” Mr. Singh told journalists after inspecting the site.

What is left of the camp has been shifted. Mr. Singh said “another place with proper defence capability and retaliatory power” would be chosen to re-establish the camp.

Calling it “the biggest such incident in West Bengal, if not in India,” Mr. Singh said that out of the 36 jawans present at the time of the attack, 24 were killed and seven others injured.

“We suspect that some of the attackers had come from neighbouring Jharkhand and fled there after the operation. We have taken up the issue with the Jharkhand government to locate the Maoists,” Mr. Singh said.

“Operations will go on”

Asked if the attack pointed to a lapse in the security network just days after a top-level meeting between the Union Home Minister, the Chief Ministers of West Bengal and Orissa and representatives of the Jharkhand and Bihar governments, the Director-General of Police said: “It is definitely a loss. But our operations will continue… the joint operation with Jharkhand will start as soon as we receive additional forces.”

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