At least 12 police officers and members of the state commando force sustained serious injuries when they ran for their lives after being chased by a mob of locals and armed Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) soldiers near the EFR headquarters at Salua in West Midnapore.
The riotous mob ransacked the barracks of the state Counter Insurgency Force (CIF) set up within the 800 acre EFR compound.
The Eastern Frontier Rifles is an armed police force of the West Bengal Police. Its purpose is to control major law and order problems, communal riots and terrorist attacks. The CIF was raised by the West Bengal government as a counter insurgency force on the lines of Greyhounds in Andhra Pradesh to combat Maoists in the state.
A CIF jawan, two women constables and two police drivers have gone missing. Executive magistrate Dilip Chowdhury who went to the spot is trapped inside the EFR compound. Most of the CIF jawans have taken shelter at the Air Force station close to the EFR headquarters at Salua. SDPO Kharagpur Dipak Sarkar, OC Kharagpur (local) Arunava Das, OC Kharagpur (town) Biswajit Das, inspector in charge Kharagpur (town) are among the injured. Two state commandos, bleeding profusely were taken to the Kharagpur Hospital.
There was tension in the area since the last five days after 18 CIF men were injured in a clash with locals and EFR jawans. On Tuesday evening, a girl who lives in the EFR HQ filed a molestation complaint against a CIF jawan. The complaint led to a stand off with locals encircling the CIF barracks. The CIF authorities refused them entry. They blocked the roads when the Kharagpur Police tried to take the CIF jawans to police station in a bid to diffuse the tension.
Trouble broke out at around 12 noon on Thursday when the Kharagpur SDPO reached the spot with a huge police force accompanied by executive magistrate Dilip Chowdhury. Chowdhury began a dialogue with the agitators and appealed them to shift the blockade to somewhere else as Madhyamik examinees use the Kharagpur-Keshiary main arterial road. While Chowdhury was busy talking, two women from the mob bit constable Sita Das' hand and tore off her belt. The police on duty resorted to a lathicharge and the crowd dispersed within seven to eight minutes.
As the police were busy giving passage to the trucks and vehicles caught on the road overnight, the locals came back at 3 p.m. Unprecedentedly, all the three battalions of EFR jawans in uniforms came out of the barracks and accompanied the crowd with arms. They opened fire at least on three occasions. Sensing danger, the police along with the commando force burst tear gas shells. The clash intensified forcing the policemen to run away.
While the police left the Salua HQ unguarded, the mob entered the CIF barracks and ransacked them. Members of the CIF assault units, altogether 13, each consisting a group of 15 jawans, sneaked into the Air Force station close to the EFR HQ where the mob had no access.
According to police, CIF jawan Kaushik Das has no trace. Another two women constables and two police drivers have gone missing.
Tension was building up in Salua since the CIF stepped into the EFR compound in May 2011. While doing a status check of the 800 acre land under the EFR's possession, the CIF authorities found 50 acres have been encroached by as many 432 illegal settlements by retired EFR personnel. They informed the director general of police and decided to set up a boundary wall thus fencing the compound, before raising the CIF barracks. The illegal settlers within the compound and their kin in the nearby Nayabustee and Puranobustee housing mainly by retired EFR families did not take it in the right spirit. That was the beginning of the problem.
There was a proposal to shift the CIF barracks to Purulia's Jharra. Accordingly, the government allocated 580 acres of land that can house 60 CIF assault units. But the proposal didn't find favour with the CIF seniors for whom it was convenient to attend office at a place close to Midnapore town, easily accessible from Kolkata.