A week after Maoists massacred 24 men of West Bengal’s Eastern Frontier Rifles paramilitary force in West Midnapore district on February 15, random visits by Hindustan Times to two police stations and an EFR camp in the district revealed how poorly the security forces are equipped to deal with the Leftist ultras.
HT visited the camps in West Midnapore because it is the worst hit of the three Maoist-affected districts in the state.
Apart from carrying outdated weapons, most of the personnel were about 50 years old — not quite the age to be fighting well trained and better-armed adversaries. Compared to the sophisticated AK-47 assault rifles that Maoists use during big attacks on security forces, the men from the state’s joint security forces are equip-ped mainly with .303 bolt-action rifles of World War II vintage.
A handful of personnel have INSAS rifles but hardly know how to use them. INSAS is an abbreviation of Indian Small Arms System, consisting of an assault rifle, a light machine gun and a carbine.
“We received training with these arms five years ago. I fired five rounds each from an SLR (self-loading rifle) and an INSAS,” said Debidas Sinha, 55, at a police camp in Sankrail town.
“We are not sure what will happen if Maoists unleash a Silda-style attack,” said 47-year-old Sheikh Mufuddin. Silda is the place where Maoists killed 24 EFR men on February 15.
Sinha, who has completed 30 years of service, and Mufuddin, who has done more than 20 years, have fired just five rounds from their INSAS rifles and SLRs during their entire careers.
At a police camp in Simlapal village, 45 km from Silda, 23 men provide security to the locals. But despite being in the war zone, only four of them have automatic rifles. The rest have .303s.
“The government has not given us SLRs or INSAS rifles. How can we fight the Maoists with these old weapons?” asked a constable.