Panic seems to have gripped security forces in Bengal’s Maoist-affected West Midnapore district a day after ultras killed 76 CRPF men in faraway Dantewada on Tuesday.
On a scorching Wednesday afternoon a CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) officer stationed in Belpahari, 165 km west of Kolkata, told an HT team to go away and not ask any questions.
“Do not stop even for a moment. You know what the situation is like. This is not the time to talk to you people,” he said. Wearing dark glasses and a bulletproof vest over a red T-shirt, the officer did not even look at the HT team. He was looking straight ahead as he led a team of about 30 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and 15 CoBRA men. All the men were carrying AK-47 assault rifles and were on high alert, reluctant to entertain anybody who would even slow down before them.
The officer was leading a team of about 30 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and 15 CoBRA men.
All the men were carrying AK-47 assault rifles and were on high alert, reluctant to entertain anybody who would even slow down before them.
The Belpahari police station is a similar picture of caution, if not panic. Its main door was locked. There was only a small door through which someone could slip in.
“Who are you?” called out an armed guard as the HT team alighted from the car.
After getting a nod from the officer-in-charge he held up two fingers, indicating that only two persons could enter.
Apart from the guard, three securitymen with self-loading rifles were positioned in the corridor of the police station.
The same heightened caution was visible at the CRPF camp in Khottadhora — 8 km from Belpahari town.
As the HT vehicle stopped near the camp, at least 15 jawans were seen slowly putting their fingers on the triggers of their automatic rifles.
“An unfortunate incident took place yesterday in Chhattisgarh. You cannot come in and we cannot come out to talk to you. You better leave,” the commanding officer said.
On the outskirts of Silda town (15 km from Belpahari), where 24 Eastern Frontier Rifles troopers were massacred by Maoists on February 15, Indian Reserve Battalion (central paramilitary force) jawans were harsher.
“How dare you to keep the car here? Don’t you know what the present situation is like? Leave this place at once,” shouted a voice from the camp.
The man behind the voice didn’t come out.