GADCHIROLI: The Maharashtra police team which came under a fatal Naxal attack in Gadchiroli district may have ignored standard operating procedures (SOPs) while planning their movement, an official said Thursday.
Sixteen people, including 15 policemen, were killed when Naxals blew up their vehicle by triggering an IED blast in the district Wednesday.
A day after the attack, major markets and commercial establishments in the district remained shut to pay tributes to the martyrs and to express solidarity with their families.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in Gadchiroli the Maharashtra DGP is examining if there was any lapse that led to the deadly Naxal attack.
The policemen, members of the district police Quick Response Team, were called as reinforcement from Kurkheda after CRPF personnel were shifted out from Purada for election duty, the official said.
Maoist activities in the area under the jurisdiction of the Purada police station in north Gadchiroli district had increased in the last few days, he said.
Presence of the CRPF personnel, who were stationed in the area, could have ensured better patrolling of the stretch where the attack took place, he said.
Maoists had prior information of the movement of the QRT team so they planted an IED beneath the road and targeted the private vehicle ferrying them, the official said.
In the early hours of Wednesday, 27 vehicles were torched by Maoists at Dadapur in jurisdiction of the Purada police station, he said.
Naxals knew a police team would be sent to Purada after the arson incident, the official added.
"It seems the police team did not follow the SOPs," he said, adding in such cases policemen should avoid using private vehicles and instead must go on foot.
The police team should have sensed the danger and avoided taking a private vehicle in a hurry to reach the arson site, the official said.
Speaking to reporters after paying tributes to the martyred policemen, Fadnavis said the state DGP himself is probing the incident and will check if there were any lapses.
He said Maoists had been facing the heat of sustained operations by the Gadchiroli police in the last 2 to 3 years.
"Naxals are retaliating against the huge action taken by the Gadchiroli police against them in the last 2 to 3 years," said the chief minister, who also holds the Home portfolio.
Fadnavis indicated appropriate response against the rebels.
"I am confident that the sacrifice made by the jawans will not go in vain. Appropriate action will be taken.
I would not like to say much about it now," he said.
Fadnavis paid floral tributes to the martyrs at the Gadchiroli SP office ground, where their mortal remains were kept.
He was accompanied by Union MoS Home Hansraj Ahir and Maharashtra MoS Home Deepak Kesarkar.
Fadnavis also spoke with family members of the martyrs.
Director General of Police Subodh Kumar Jaiswal had Wednesday said the attack was not due to intelligence failure.
Meanwhile, Naxal banners were found at several places in the district which warned contractors against constructing roads and bridges in the area.
A police official said the North Gadchiroli divisional Committee of the Maoists put up banners at various locations in the area.
"The banners said that the development work in this area is not for the locals, but for the benefit of a handful of rich people. They warned contractors to stop construction of roads and bridges in the area," the official said.
In some of the banners, the Naxals also urged people to "destroy the dream of creating a Hindu Rashtra in the name of New India", the official said.
Police removed these banners, he said.
The Naxal attack is a failure of the BJP-led government, state Congress chief Ashok Chavan said Thursday.
Taking potshots at the chief minister, who visited Gadchiroli Thursday, Chavan said what was the use of going there after the attack.
Chavan, a former Maharashtra CM, wondered why the Fadnavis-led government did not take measures to prevent the deadly attack.