RAIPUR: Tuesday’s Sukma blast is not the first time that Mine-Protected Vehicles (MPVs) have been blown to smithereens by the Maoists in their strongholds in Chhattisgarh.
Counter-insurgency experts are unanimous that the anti-landmine vehicle turns out to be “ineffective” in Maoist strongholds where the cadres — known to have accessed to RDX —detonate heavy improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
So, does the central paramilitary and police leadership needs to be educated on what should be followed and strictly avoided for their men in the virtual war zone of Bastar where IEDs are planted by the Red brigade in inhospitable terrain?
“No armoured personnel carrier or vehicle can withstand IEDs, which are often 20 kg and above in Chhattisgarh. The areas cited as Maoist stronghold and epicentre remain heavily mined. Such vehicles are suitable along the western border of Rajasthan and Pakistan where 100 to 1,200-gram explosives are used. The MPVs are good only for small arm fire and against the conventional mines,” said Brigadier (retired) B K Ponwar, director in Kanker-based jungle warfare college.
Despite the anti-landmine carrier provided with helmets, seat-belts and various safety equipment and measures, the MPVs are not effective when trapped in heavy explosion as seen at Kishtaram in Sukma when the vehicle was blown up high in the air, killing the personnel nside.The guerrilla warfare experts feel the lessons are not learned despite the casualties in earlier cases involving MPVs in Maoist-affected areas.
Former Chhattisgarh DGP Vishwaranjan asserts nowhere in the world any MPV can bear the massive impact of IEDs weighing 20kg and above.
“The vehicle can become stranded even in a blast caused by 10 kg explosive. It can be effective against the bullets during a gun-battle,” he says.
And, the odds are heavily stacked against the security personnel considering the government-owned ordnance factory bring out MPVs that cannot withstand the impact of IEDs cobbled together with 20 kg RDX.
Did the CRPF personnel ignore SOPs?
The Sukma attack once again saw the strong presence of Maoists, whose superior intelligence network proved fatal for the CRPF personnel at Kishtaram in Sukma district. Many of the deceased were not in their combat fatigues at the blast site.
The Kishtaram CRPF base camp was barely 3 km from the site where the rebels triggered powerful blast. “So, that means no prior mandatory operation on Road Opening Patrol (ROP) was done when the vehicles were to be used on the route and the regular routine patrolling near the camp seems missing. The Maoists consequently got enough scope to plant heavy IEDs there,” an ex-army officer feels.
There were repeated alerts from intelligence agencies about the heavy presence of the rebels in the region but apparently little precautionary moves were carried out and the prompt coordination between the paramilitary forces and the state police in the region was seen lacking.
“It’s an unfortunate incident and not the moment to ponder on such issue. There is alert everyday and the attacks are not uncommon in Maoist stronghold,” Special DG, D M Awasthi says.
Senior police officials engaged in anti-Maoist operations state troopers are expected to be much more alert when the cadres carry out their annual Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) which continues from March till June.
During this duration, the rebels are desperate to regain military strength, infuse confidence among their cadres and simultaneously mount pressure on the forces.