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18 Jun 2017

Guerrilla war in hill terrain stumps cops

Dwaipayan Ghosh & Jayanta Gupta | TNN | Jun 18, 2017,KOLKATA/DARJEELING: Lack of intelligence and little or no knowledge of the terrain are the primary reasons behind Saturday's violence in Darjeeling. One can add to this the fact that most of the policemen on duty in Darjeeling now arrived from the plains a few days ago and are yet to get used to operating at over 6,500 feet with all the gear that they are carrying.
The police top brass, both in Darjeeling and Kolkata, admitted that they may have got the GJM strategy wrong. The party's leaders may well be looking out for skirmishes such as Saturday's to whip up frenzy among the common people. The officers also believe that the party is much better prepared than it was in 2013, the last time violence broke out in the Hills.
The one thing that GJM workers have been able to exploit to their advantage is the hilly terrain, using the bends and gradients to keep the cops at bay for several hours.
"All the skirmishes have taken place near sharp bends with a road running at a height with a clear view of the goings-on below. This is ideal guerrilla territory and the GJM has been utilizing the terrain to its total advantage. The locals know every bend, every path up or down a hill like the back of their hands. They have also learnt how to use the catapult very effectively. On Saturday, a policeman was injured in the forehead just below his helmet, probably due to a well-aimed missile from a catapult," an officer said.
At Singmari on Saturday, the demonstrators resorted to stone pelting from a height and used the bends and rocks to their advantage before the policemen decided to fire tear gas shells. According to an IPS officer, the stone-pelters would simply duck behind rocks as the tear gas shells sailed past.
While the sure-footed and slight youngsters who participated in Saturday's clashes didn't carry any equipment, the policemen were bogged down by shields, body armour, canes, guns and webbing holding extra magazines. While the security forces had to use the winding road to move in, the GJM supporters outwitted them by using the steep stairs along the hillside to move up and down with ease. When a water canon was brought in to control protestors, realization dawned that the machinery would be useless after the tank emptied out as there was no water source for a refill. "It suddenly made no sense to drag the monster vehicle - so effective in the plains - here in the hills," an officer said.
To counter the terrain challenge and establish area domination, the force needed brute numbers. To just take control of Patlewas area, the force needed three companies. Yet, only eight companies of paramilitary force is at their disposal for entire Darjeeling and Kalingpong sub-divisions. "The number of senior IPS officers currently stationed in Darjeeling is adequate but we need more numbers on the ground, units like RAF which have experience in handling law and order. "We have asked for more force from Nabanna," an IPS officer said.
Sources also said intelligence gathering was proving to be difficult. With sentiments on the Gorkhaland issue running high, cooperation from locals was marginal. "We had prior information that there would be gatherings at Lebong, Kurseong, Sonada or Singmari. What we did not anticipate was the sheer number in which they would assemble. Once outnumbered, it is difficult to maintain barriers," an officer said.
GJM also used women as shields in front of each rally and surrounding the force as more cadres rushed in from adjoining areas. "It is now obvious that the resistance was planned over several weeks," claimed a top cop. (Source & Courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/guerrilla-war-in-hill-terrain-stumps-cops/articleshow/59198542.cms )

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