Fourteen personnel of the CRPF, including two senior officers, were killed and 15 others injured in a Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on 1 December. It was the second attack in the same area on the security forces by the outlawed left-wing extremists in a span of 10 days. Preliminary investigations suggest that the Maoists had laid a trap for the CRPF personnel and then carried out the ambush. Continuous surrenders and arrests of Naxals in the state over the past few months had boosted the morale of the security forces, and this is believed to have led to the counter-attack by the guerrillas.
As the police and the Union home ministry try to join the dots, it appears that the Maoists had tricked the forces into carrying out a combing operation in the forests surrounding Kasalpara village in the Chintagufa area of the district. Sources reveal that some informers had tipped off the police about a huge gathering of Maoists near the village. The police were also informed that some Naxals killed in a recent encounter with the CRPF had been buried or cremated in the same village. Based on this information, an operation was planned in the area with 237 CRPF personnel. Little did they suspect that the Maoists could be luring them into a trap. Within minutes of reaching the spot, the CRPF personnel came under heavyfire from the Maoists, who used automatic weapons.
The guerrillas are reported to have used the villagers as a human shield during the attack. As a result, the CRPF personnel did not retaliate as vigorously as they would have otherwise, leading to higher casualties on their side. The injured personnel, who are being treated in a Raipur hospital, claim that at least 10 Maoists were killed, but their bodies could not be recovered as the guerrillas took them away while fleeing.
It is believed that gaps in the intelligence-gathering system in the interiors of the state allowed the Maoists to carry out such an ambush.
After the incident, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh rushed to Raipur for a meeting with Chief Minister Raman Singh and top officials of the state. “I am personally saddened by this incident. The Naxals are desperate and it is an act of cowardice. The attack is a challenge not only for the government but also for all peace-loving citizens of the country,” said the home minister.
Raman Singh, who cancelled his visit to New Delhi to be in Raipur soon after the attack, said that the Naxalites did not have the courage to face the security forces and that is why they carried out the ambush in a cowardly manner.
This was the biggest attack mounted by the Maoists so far in Chhattisgarh this year. The two senior officers who were killed — Deputy Commandant DS Verma and Assistant Commandant Rajesh Kapuria — belonged to the 223 Battalion of the CRPF.
In his tweet condemning the incident, Prime Minister Narendra Modi saluted the courage of the martyred CRPF personnel and also urged Rajnath Singh and Raman Singh to monitor the situation.
According to ADG (Naxal Ops) RK Vij, personnel from the 223 Battalion of the CRPF and the 206 Battalion of its commando unit — the Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) — were carrying out a joint area-domination operation when the Naxals ambushed them. Eight teams comprising personnel from the CRPF, COBRA and the local police had proceeded on 29 November from eight separate points — Chintalnar, Chintagufa, Kanker-Lanka, Gorguda, Polampalli, Puswada, Bhejji and Burkapal – for the operation. At 2 pm on 1 December, the Kanker-Lanka and Chintagufa teams were ambushed by the Maoists, who detonated a landmine before opening fire.
CRPF IG HS Siddhu was also present with the contingent during the operation. The attack was carried out in the same area where the guerrillas had shot at an air force helicopter last month.
Since September, the Naxals have been preparing for the PLGA week, which they observe from 2 December every year, and had been distributing pamphlets about it in Sukma and surrounding areas.
Two days before the attack, hundreds of Maoists had reportedly attended a meeting near Chintagufa. The Maoist central committee is said to have masterminded the attack. According to sources, top Maoist leaders, including Pankaj, Sanni, Jagdish and Deva, had held a meeting on 29 November in the mountainous region of Gorli-Gadiras. Pankaj has long been active as a spokesperson of the central committee, while Jagdish is the commander of the Maoists’ platoon No. 26 that operates in south Bastar. They were probably aware of the movement of the security forces in the area and could plan their ambush with deadly precision.
Translated from Hindi by Naushin Rehman