A team of five ministers of the West Bengal government — who visited the Eastern Frontier Rifles headquarters at Salua near here on Tuesday to express solidarity with the families of the jawans killed during Maoist attack on the Silda camp — faced massive protests from family members of the deceased who demanded better security for jawans deployed in the State.
Even as the ministers, including Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, announced a Rs.15-lakh compensation for each of the affected families, the protesters, mainly women, refused to listen to them and continued demonstrating.
The district police had a tough time managing the demonstrators and taking the ministers to safety. Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Verma told The Hindu that all possible arrangements were taken to bring the situation under control.
Camp area deserted
Meanwhile, the area around the Silda camp wore a deserted and gloomy look on Tuesday as eyewitnesses recounted the moments when the Maoists raided the camp on Monday.
“It was the day for the weekly village market and business was going on as usual. Suddenly there was an explosion and about 50 to 60 men and some women swooped in from nowhere and started firing at the camp,” a visibly shaken Haripada Manna said.
Mr. Manna, who also owns a shop in the market, said the attackers had sophisticated weapons and asked the shop-owners and buyers to vacate the site.
“Though they assured us that we will not be harmed, we ran helter-skelter leaving behind our shops. By that time we could hear the sounds of more explosions and saw flames inside the camp,” he added.
While Silda wore the look of an undeclared bandh on Tuesday, Mr. Manna and several others waited for information from inside the camp.
“We fear retaliation”
“We had fairly good relations with the camp residents and are feeling bad about those who died. We also feel that after this attack, the police will lose trust in the villagers and we fear retaliation,” said Duliram Tudu.
Though the local people expressed ignorance about Maoist casualties, Bhupinder Singh, the State’s Director-General of Police, said during his visit to the site that there were reports of the death of three Maoists.
One unidentified civilian was also killed in the attack.
Meanwhile, suspected Maoists triggered two separate landmine explosions at Salboni and Pirakata since late Monday. No one was injured.