Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Silda Massacre: Updated

That the Silda Massacre in West Bengal, where 25 Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) Jawans were killed, was a tragedy waiting to happen, has been established beyond doubt. If we are given to understand the media reports, the IB had even pinpointed the camp as a target for a Maoist attack, and yet the tragedy occured. Many post mortems - both literal and figurative - later, will things change? Unlikely, going by the situation of the state, unless between the Chief Minister and the Governor they can drive some sense into the forces there.
So what is needed?
Nothing much really...the forces there need to be forces instead of 'apologies in khaki'. They need to go about their daily routine with seriousness and intent. And they need to be given the resources they need to perform the tasks assigned to them.
They need to oil their weapons daily and fire 10 rounds each at a target on a weekly basis. And then when they fire each round they should walk up to the target and see whether they have missed and by how much. Come back and readjust the weapons and fire the next round and so on until the weapons are satisfactorily 'zeroed'. And then they should fire another 10 rounds just to gain some confidence, feel the weapon, get used to the recoil and in general feel good about it. It does not matter if the weapon is a .303 Lee Enfield or the latest long as it fires. Yes, they will need automatic weapons...but for now they will have to fight with what they have.
The problem, I suspect, is that they have no training ammunition and the ammunition they have is to be used only when attacked and is also probably rusted! A common problem. They probably do not have 'pull-throughs' and rifle oil to clean their weapons as well. They also probably do not have an 'armourer' amongst them except at the HQ. He is the one with the tools to adjust the rifles so that the bullets hit the target and repair the rifles. He too probably does not have the spares needed to repair the rifles. They probably do not have they will have to make do with bottles, tins etc IF they are interested. They probably do not have a firing range and since they cannot fire anywhere for fear of injuring civilians, they do not fire. MOST of all, they do not have the requisite officers or junior officers required, who can ensure that all of the above actually materialises in time for the men to fire and gain confidence to operate in these places.
Like this, they will need proper camping gear to include tents, sandbags, digging tools, barbed wire, generator sets amongst hundreds of other things to establish a camp. And then they will need good leadership - the most difficult thing to provide.
Providing these things are not impossible in this day and age. Resources are there for the asking. The most important thing lacking is the WILL. The will to fight. Probably because these things are happening too far away from Kolkata.
Let insurgency experienced BSF officers command the EFR and similar forces in West Bengal. Let the army units provide training to the EFR. Let the EFR and other forces evolve - but not by making the mistakes that the Army and BSF made in 1990s in J&K. Let them learn from those mistakes.
Let them also realise that while using force to neutralise the Maoists is important, it is more important not to create Maoists by our actions of our forces. Thus people-centric operations, low collateral damage, winning hearts and minds (WHAM) and civic action must govern the nature of these operations. Hence, the forces must be in synch with the local administration - if one exists in those areas.

UPDATE: The Governor of West Bengal visits EFR and meets families of the soldiers.

An excellent step towards restoring faith, confidence and hope in the minds of the soldiers. Now this needs to be followed-up by action on ground.


  1. awesome perspective from grounds up. This write up is interestig because it tells us that a lot on the grouds on operational level can be done. You are right when you say, it does not matter if it is .303 or a MP5, so long it fires, its as good! well written!

  2. thanks Monsoon Man...will start writing about security related issues a little more.