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Father’s query on slain jawan’s battle gear

Malda, June 28: A gun salute was accorded to Mohammad Etaharul Islam, the Straco constable killed by Maoists in West Midnapore, at the Manikchak police station this morning before the body was handed over to his family for the last rites.

Before setting off for the burial, a grim Rabinul Momin said no one could tell him if his son was wearing a bullet-proof jacket during the encounter with Maoists. “Why were he and other brave young men fighting the Maoists not given proper equipment in these operations. I have not received the answer from any one,” he said.

One of Etaharul’s close friends, Rizaul Haque, said the state government should look into the quality of the equipment police were using. “More and more young men will fall to Maoist bullets if they are not given proper fighting equipment,” he said.

The commandant of the 4th Battalion of the state armed police posted in Raiganj, T.F. Lepcha, said he had no idea if the slain constable was wearing a bullet-proof jacket during the attack. “What I know is that a group of about 30 Maoists attacked 20 policemen early Sunday morning. Etaharul fired and the bullet hit one of the rebels. Then, the Maoists targeted him,” he said.

The secretary of the Non-gazetted Police Workers’ Association, Pritimoy Guha, said they had already drawn the attention of the state government to the fact that there was not enough equipment for the police to tackle the Maoists. “I will not say anything further on the matter,” he said.

Superintendent of police of Malda Bhuban Mondol, who along with other senior officers of the force was present during the gun salute, said Etaharul’s family would get a compensation of Rs 15 lakh from the government. “Besides, a member of his family will get a job in the police,” he said.

Thousands of people gathered at Etaharul’s home at Shyampurchowki-Momintola, 40km from Malda, to pay their last respects to the jawan. The body had arrived in a police vehicle around 6.30pm from West Midnapore.

Etaharul’s body was taken in a huge procession at 11am to the burial ground at Momintola, 1.5km from his home.

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