(DISCLAIMER: All characters, names, incidents and pictures in this post (EAT SNAKE, AVOID WATER) are fictitious & imaginary and bear no resemblance to actual incidents that happened or any person living or dead. Any similarity in the names, characters, incidents and pictures may be co-incidental. This post is NOT the eye-witness record of the incidents that took place, rather it is an imaginary story. Any similarity in the names, govt. institutions, photos (esp.), etc should be taken as gratuitous and if unacceptable, should be immediately brought to the notice of the blogger. The offensive part shall be immediately modified and an apology will be posted).
COBRA: COMMANDO BATTALION FOR THE RESOLUTE ACTION. A SPECIAL UNIT OF ‘CENTRAL RESERVE POLICE FORCE’. TOTAL STRENGTH – 2000, PLANS TO RAISE 4000 MORE BY 2012. SPECIALISE IN JUNGLE WARFARE AGAINST THE MAOISTS. THEY ARE THE COUNTRY’S TOP ANTI NAXALITE FORCE TRAINED TO “FIGHT THE GUERRILLA LIKE A GUERRILLA”.
COBRA JAWANS ARE TAUGHT TO CATCH AND EAT THEIR NAMESAKE – SNAKES – TO SURVIVE IN MAOISTS INFESTED JUNGLE. THEY ARE ALSO TRAINED TO ENDURE THIRST FOR LONG HOURS SINCE THE MAOISTS ARE KNOWN TO POISON WELLS AND STREAMS.
STRICTLY ORDERED TO WEAR PLAIN CLOTHES TO DECEIVE THE MAOISTS, THE FORCE STATIONED AT JHARKHAND AND CHHATTISGARH HAD TO FIGHT A 32 HRS. LONG BATTLE WITH THE GUERRILLAS AT LALGARH (DISTRICT OF WEST BENGAL).
About 10 Police men are forced to lock themselves inside the Police Station at Lalgarh for more than 3 days. The City of Lalgarh has been completely lost by Indian government to the Rebels. The leaders of Lalgarh have been victorious in liberating the city from corrupt bureaucrats, the Minions, the Zamindars, the capitalists (remember Singur and Nandigram) and the most important – Atrocities of the Upper Castes.
This condition reminds me of 1962 Indo-China war when many Regiments of the Indian Army surrendered without even firing a bullet in Assam, which was captured within 36 hrs. by Chinese troops.
Out of 7 Police Stations in Lalgarh, 6 of them have been destroyed by the Rebels (without much resistance, of course).
Has India repeated the HIMALAYAN BLUNDER once again?
Reclaiming Lalgarh is the most important issue now. Will there be a ceasefire as being demanded by many Human Rights organizations and maintenance of status quo? Will there be one more Line of Control?
Government of India has declined any speculations of the involvement of Indian Army and Air Force in combating the Rebels at Lalgarh. “We cannot kill the Naxalites. We cannot order Air Force to drop bombs or Army Tanks to fire shells on people of our own country. They are citizens of India. Army and Air Force is used against the Terrorists or Aliens who are enemies of the Nation, not against Criminals of Society. To protect the society from criminals we have Police Force. They will do the needful. And moreover Army operations are so expensive, gosh, and then who will take the responsibility of the destruction of forests, fauna and flora due to shells and bombs, and that too when we have to attend COP15 in December.” said an IAS mandarin from RAISINA HILLS.
Ha. Seceding a complete city from the nation is not an anti national activity. Are they simple criminals? I doubt. Well, the State Police and Paramilitary forces have now to fight the war on their own.
In the month of June, when colleges have vacations, there is nothing much to do at home. Operation Lalgarh is God sent (at least for me).
“So what is the strategy”? I asked my Dad over Breakfast table who gave me indignation look as if I asked him for all his fortunes.
“How are your preparations going on, are you satisfied with your coaching people? I told you to read “Statesman” daily. There are lot many things for you to do, concentrate there.”
“Aa, this is for my Interview, Dad”. I beseeched.
“Nothing much, we are planning to do something. Be fast, you have to meet Arun Uncle at 10 o’clock.”
Mr. Arun is my cell phone coaching lecturer. He provides me coaching over phone when I am in College. He appeared for Civil Services Mains twice. Once he even made up to interview, but failed. However, he somehow managed to qualify State services, which is his full time job; Bragging about his Civil Services achievements is his part time job. This would sound bellicose, but there are many walking encyclopedias that are living failures.
“I am practicing Essays these days. They are important Dad, they carry 200 marks. And I need some new topics. Please.” You sometimes need to relate the things that you are asking for with your studies and career to make your parents accept it.
“Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh police headquarters have engaged three senior IPS officers to lead a police contingent to counter. There are about 700 – 900 Maoists inside Lalgarh.”
“And then. Are you guys going to surround and kill them? This is undemocratic. You cannot kill the Adivasis. They have no idea what crime they are doing. They have been indoctrinated by the Bengalese”. You should in fact gun down those Bengalese who are the masterminds.” Yes, this was the catalyst. Let’s see what effect it makes on the chemical reaction.
“The State Police and State paramilitaries will provide outer support, secure the perimeter and block the exits because whenever there is pressure from the police on the Maoists in any of the states, they cross over to the bordering states till the dust settles. These forces will then clear the human shields, consisting of women and children, mostly your favourite Adivasis, put up by ultras on the way leading to Lalgarh. We cannot kill them. They are “Adivasis”. We will have to resort to baton charging and tear gas shell to chase away the mob.
This time we take extreme caution – in stark contrast to Nandigram, where police firing resulted in multiple deaths. The actual fighting will then follow with the Maoists who are hiding behind these innocent peoples, for which we have 5 battalions (5000 men) of CRPF and 2 battalions (2000 men) of BSF.” My dad sounded pretty confident due to the numbers.
“But Dad Even the Maoists would be sure of the operations; they would be waiting for you guys”.
“Hmmm… Money from Jharkhand, weapons from Orissa, cadres from Chhattisgarh and leadership from Andhra. But nothing to worry; Even we want a head on this time. And then we have COBRAS.”
“What would they do, Are they Gods, they do not die”?
“Hmm… but Cobras are perhaps the best-equipped paramilitary unit in the country. Since we cannot use Army, Cobras are the best substitute. They have an enviable arsenal matching that of an infantry. They have machine guns, rocket launchers and many more Hi-tech types of equipment. They even have a well trained sniper team, which will be the backbone of the operation.
“Can I meet them”?
“Taking on Maoists is not a big deal for us. What bother us are the local civilians. They can create chaos and disarray. We are not interested in creating some more Nandigrams and even the RAISINA HILLS would not want to see ‘RED’ newspaper the other day….
….We have strict orders to avoid firings to the maximum possible. So we will use reasonable force to threaten and disperse the mob, but what amounts to reasonable force has not been defined anywhere in any Act.” said Mr. S.K. Verma DIG, (COBRA), CRPF while sipping a cup of tea.
“So there would be beatings, baton charge, water canons, tear gases and humiliations (sort of molestations for women) in the name of reasonable force.” I Said.
“Few things should not be spoken beta, should be implied. We will not beat them to death. Don’t worry. But we will not go and beg them to remove the blockades. They are not as fool as they seem to be or law assumes them to be. They know how to gain public opinion in their favour especially the human rights and private news channels…
…They throw hand made petrol bombs at us, burn public properties, block the national highways and roads by cutting down trees. But we cannot kill them for these petty crimes. You must have read Indian Penal Code. Media persons are already there to take and publicize the snaps of Police atrocities. I fear media peoples (laughs). They are Gods these days (laughs lauder). They can even throw me out of my job if I am caught slapping any Adivasi even if that Adivasi had few minutes earlier tried to stab me with his bow and arrow.” He sips the tea to bottom.
“So when are you guys leaving”?
“We plan to cross Jharkhand tonight itself. We will leave around 5:00 pm so that we can reach there early morning. It is difficult to travel after sunset in Bengal. They may have planted land mines on highways, so we can not take to roads. Moving through jungles is also difficult. They are also using sharpened iron nails. They have dug ditches in jungles and covered it with normal grass after hiding nails inside. Though these nails do not kill us, it affects swift movement.”
“Can I accompany you”? I asked my Dad.
“(smiles) Yeah, you can, there are many reporters travelling with us. But I suggest you stay out of it.”
But who can resist. I was dying to go there.
By the evening I almost knew the plan. After dealing with the Localites, Cobras will infiltrate Maoist territory in small groups of four to six men. First in would be surveillance teams, who will avoid engaging the enemy even if they spot them. Each team would have a communications expert, a combat medic (one adept both with the syringe and the rifle), and two to three spotters’. Their first task would be to relay information on the movement of the guerrilla forces, deployment of action squads, the kind of weapons they carry and assess the fighting capability of the locally trained cadres.
And then Assault.
“Well if the Maoists do stand and fight, which would go against the guerrilla manual of retreating when outgunned and outnumbered, COBRAS will be a potent strike force. Sniper teams can stay hidden in the jungle and gun down Maoist squad leaders to spread panic and confusion in their ranks. Remember, commandos fight dirty.” Explained Mr. Verma.
So all geared up. We came closer to Jharkhand-Bengal border. Purulia-Bankura-Chakulia to downhill Pabra and Jamshedpur are the entry points. The entire force divided itself into two parts. One of the parts took Jamshedpur (district of Jharkhand) side entry into Bengal whereas the other part entered through Dhanbad (district of Jharkhand). From here there is no cake walk.
The Lalgarh village is connected with Jhargram and Medinipur towns by roads which are bordered on both sides by sparse to moderate forests. The roads have been dug up or blocked by trees at least in 25 places. We had to struggle removing the blockades so movement was slow.
Till 11 0’clock we didn’t see any Adivasis’ mob or any gatherings. The journey was although boring but I knew it would be exciting very soon. At around 11:20 am, we reached the outskirts of Pirakata (district of West Bengal). We had the information of local resistance from this place, but still all seemed quite. It was decided to take rest for few hours before proceeding to the RED ZONE.
We started out for the operations at around 3:00 pm from Pirakata. We faced the first resistance from the villagers at Malida village which is around two kilometers from Pirakata, where around 2000 villagers had gathered acting as “human shields”. After warning by the Additional Superintendent of Police to leave the place, tear gas shells were fired and subsequent lathi charge was made to disperse the mob. The police raided some houses and detained some villagers in search of Maoists. The police were also successful to disperse and remove three more blockades during the day including one at Tirlakhali, and proceeded further 2 kilometers to Bhimpur village at 6:30 pm.
At around 7:00 pm, it was growing dark, so we decided to push back 2 km and halt for the night by the roadside at Koima. Some of them retreated another 1 km to Tirlakhali. During setting up of the camp, some gun shots were fired at us from the paddy fields at short intervals and the our forces return fired in the direction without any causalities. WOW! This was the first time I was being fired at. It was an awesome experience, especially when you know you are safe with so many peoples around you to guard. Few CRPF men who took part in the action to assist the State Police and State paramilitaries were replaced at night by those kept in reserve at the Pirakata camp. At night the IPS and CRPF honchos were busy boasting and bragging for being able to surround Lalgarh without resorting to bullets (they were actually thanking god b’coz one Adivasi dead – they lose their job). There were phone calls of some IAS babus from RAISINA HILLS patting the backs; even they were happy and now have an opportunity to flatter themselves of having saved the ruling government from being overthrown by the opposition on the ground of police atrocities and tyrannical behaviour in Lalgarh.
“Enjoying?” my Dad asked me.
“Yeah, it’s exciting but little scary for me. Seeing people being beaten up mercilessly by the policemen are gruesome scenes. For you guys, however, it was an easy job. I mean you are 50% done without much effort.”
C’mon, who told you 50%? There are policemen still locked inside the Lalgarh police station, The SP and DM have fled the city to take shelter at Kolkata Police Headquarter. Not a single government official is present inside the city, they have burned down the civil hospital, doctors and nurses have fled after being beaten, Government Banks have been looted and shut down, the lady manager of a State Grameen Bank was made to run naked for about half kilometer after being gang raped, and many more similar incidents.
“This is wrong, this is undemocratic. This is India, this is no Afghanistan, and they are not Taliban. On one side Indian government boasts of its defense capabilities and on the other we have this. Government should have quickly responded through Army, Air Force, see still there is no Army or Air Force”.
“(Laughs)… I can understand the reason you are getting angry. During my college days even I used to curse the Government for everything, but beta our government is not as corrupt as we think it is. The IAS officers at RAISINA HILLS have many jobs to handle”.
“But fighting terrorism should be the priority, saving a women being raped and made to parade naked should be on top of the list, after all this is why we chose the government. This is why the state is for.”
“NO, who told you this is why the state is for. Nahin. This is one of the functions of State, but not the priority”.
“C’mon. I vote for my security.”
“Yeah, that’s the point. You vote for yourself but the government has to look after 120 crore peoples.
“See for a state to exist, it has to have money. An Economy. Economy decides the level of Army you can afford, the kind of roads, houses you can have, the quality of food and shelter you can provide, the industries, banks, commerce; etc. For a successful economy – mainly to sell your products – you need to keep up good diplomatic and trade relations with other countries. Sometimes you need to take loans.”
“So what effect do all these things have on a women being paraded naked here in Lalgarh.”
“It has. India is a poor country. We are able to eat because of World Bank. If World Bank refuses loans to us, we shall die of hunger. Our economy will be ruined. But even after taking loans, we are not in a better position. The loans need to be repaid. The interests are high. Have you seen Africans on Nat Geo. Thanks to our government, we are li’l better? To save women from being raped, you need to maintain good police force, for that you need money. And we do not have money. 25% of our populations live below poverty line. 60% of Indians survive on less than $2 per day. Even our metros are no better. A single day of heavy rain in Mumbai blocks the traffic. We need huge money to repair the sewage system. Again we do not have that so we go to World Bank – again heavy interest – vicious cycle – and poor remains poor – police force remains backward. We cannot spend thousands of crores on Police modernization plans. That money we need for MID DAY MEAL SCHEMES to persuade people to send their children to schools so that we can have literacy. We need money for LAADLI scheme so that people do not infanticide their daughters. We need money for our Army, Navy and Air Force. That is important. Still we do not have much advanced defense forces in comparison to other countries. Because we are poor. This is poverty that has led these people of Lalgarh to revolt. This type of revolts is common in African countries. We are not at much better position.”
“But Dad you will have to agree with corruption”.
“Of course, I do agree with the corruption. But every developed country in its developing times had to face this. We are no new. Buying and Selling of MPs to form government were common among British and we have learnt this from them. Police of almost all the country is corrupt. Crime is present everywhere – in poor as well as advanced economies. The people of backward states commit crime related to stomach – theft, robbery, dacoity, murder for money, open fight, looting, etc. whereas people of relatively advanced states commit different crimes like drugs at parties, murders for land disputes, college sex workers, drinking menace, rash and negligent driving, etc. In US every 3 min a women is raped, with 1.3 women being raped every minute all over the world; comparatively women are safer in India, where it happens every 27 min. In pre Independence era, it was even low. People were poor and used to live in villages. They knew each and every other family in the village. But as our country is progressing, we are imitating Western countries – You cannot stop this. When US police have failed, where do Indians stand? This is human behaviour.”
“You sleep, no need to think over it, speak to your Mamma, she was worried. Good Night.”
Next morning several leaflets in Bengaliand Ol Chikiwere distributed from the helicopters by the government to stay away from the Maoists and refrain from becoming human shields. We started early in the morning around 5:00 am. The security forces tried to advance towards Lalgarh from four different ways; from Sarenga in Bankura district in the north, from Goaltore in the east, from Jhargram – Dahijuriroute in the west and the mainly through Midnapur- Pirakata route in the south of Lalgarh.
Within half hour we were in front of the most infamous place known as Jhitkha Jungle, which is considered the Maoist’s den. Behind this forest lies LALGARH.
So COBRAs have been called in. Divided in two different groups of about 200 soldiers each, the sanitization operation to flush out the Maoists in Jhitkha Jungle started at 6:00 am. The plan was to attack from two ends of the jungle and proceed in shape of an equilateral triangle so as to avoid any Maoists attempt to break in through the lines and gradually whitewashing about 75% of the jungle. The first bullet was fired at about 6:06 am. A BSF battalion proceeded inside the jungle behind the COBRAs in order to comb the ground after COBRAs have sanitized it from the Maoists. It was decided to send in BSF because they are more trained at jungle warfare than CRPFs, which however sent a wave of anger among CRPFs. They felt downplayed.
There was heavy machine gun firing from the Maoists side. The Maoists have dig trenches. They took positions on the branches of trees (our snipers took care of them) and even in the shrubs. However within an hour, the intensity of fire from their side decreased. So it was clear that these Bengali rats can not fight as a civilized army. The most they can do is launch a surprise attack by night on any police patrol (500 vs. 8), loot a bank during wee hours (again 100 vs. 1 or 2 bank guards) or make a woman parade naked when no military is around, or put a land mine to blow up a police patrol, or gherao a police station by severing the communication line and blocking the reinforcement passage (again 1000 vs. 20).
Or the most – murder a British Police Officer when he is unarmed (in the name of Freedom Struggle).
After about one and half hour of fighting, the sanitization operation turned into an Inspection Operation along 2km stretch of the jungle. At about 12 noon, the forces were able to completely flush out the Maoists form the jungle. Actual number of the Maoists killed could not be ascertained as the Maoists carried away with them the dead bodies while retreating. COBRAs claim to have shot not less than 30.
So by noon we were in front of Lalgarh, the historical place where Indian Freedom revolutionaries shot down 3 district magistrates consecutively; where Santhal, Munda and various other uprisings against the British took place. This is the place which even British feared. The people here find no difference between the situation during the English days and now. Only the colour of skin has changed. Long Live Nationalism (Fundamentalism).