Sarenga (Bankura), Feb. 25: Ten minutes after the guns had fallen silent and the Maoists had stopped firing from the Kusumbani forest, Rabi Lochan Mitra, the inspector in-charge of Sarenga police station, turned back with his men and had barely walked half a kilometre in the dead of night when firing started from a half-constructed market.
Mitra had walked into a Maoist trap.
After a 20-minute gun-battle, Mitra took a bullet in his chest and a few minutes later, he lay dead. Police later said that had Mitra been wearing the bullet-proof jacket kept in the station, he would have been alive now.
According to the police, the Maoist attack in Sarenga, a town on the border of Bankura and West Midnapore, began a little past midnight, when a group of 20 rebels came in a minibus and walked in a single file to the house of a local CPM leader, Tarashankar Patra, near the Gobindapur market.
Seeing some of the lights on in the house, the Maoists, who had entered from the back, shot at the bulbs and plunged the house into darkness. Then they started shouting for Patra to come out of the house, all the while calling him a “CPM harmad”. When no one responded, they kicked open the door and pulled Patra out.
The Maoists tied his hands and feet and made him squat on the steps leading to the backdoor. As he struggled and screamed, the Maoists shot him in his left leg.
Patra’s wife Mita had by then quietly called up the Sarenga police station and by 1am, 40 personnel of the special trained company (Straco) of the police, led by Mitra, arrived at Patra’s house.
The police personnel, who had taken up defences behind the boundary wall, shone two powerful searchlights at the house. With the backdoor lit up, they saw Patra sitting crouched on the doorstep with a Maoist holding a revolver to his head. One of the policemen shot the Maoist in the chest. As he fell to the ground, the other Maoists retaliated. The exchange of fire went on for about half an hour, after which the Maoists took to their heels.
The Maoists then broke up into two groups and while one went towards the Kusumbani forest, the other headed to the Gobindapur market.
In the confusion and the darkness, the police did not notice the group bound for the market. Instead, they followed the group of Maoists who went into the forest that began almost from the back of Patra’s house.
Misled into thinking that all the Maoists had gone into the forest, the police engaged them till the rebels’ guns fell silent. The police then fell into the Maoist trap while returning to the market.
“Just like the Straco men, the Maoists also appeared to be armed with Insas and AK-47 rifles,” said DIG, Midnapore range, Piyush Pandey. Both Mitra and Patra were rushed to hospital. Mitra was declared dead, while Patra is recovering.
At Writers’ Buildings, director-general of police Bhupinder Singh said: “The police station was equipped with both night-vision equipment as well as bullet-proof jackets. The police should always use them. We are recommending his name for gallantry award.”
In the Sarenga encounter, while one Maoist was shot dead, another who suffered bullet injuries is admitted to hospital. He will be arrested soon, police said.
Three persons have been arrested from near the Jharkhand border and Kharagpur in connection with the Shilda camp attack. Police said Suklal Soren was a Maoist action squad member who took part in the attack while Ashis Mahato and Manas Mahato had helped the rebels buy two vehicles used during the strike. A Bolero and a pick-up van were used to ferry the Maoists.