NEW DELHI: Maoists' writ runs in large swathes of mineral-rich south Chhattisgarh, posing the "biggest challenge" for security forces deployed for anti-Naxal operations, the chief of CRPF, the largest paramilitary force tasked with the exercise, has said.
The area has become one of the deadliest as it sits on a four-way junction where Chhattisgarh shares its borders with three other Naxal-affected states of Maharashtra, Odisha and Telangana.
"South Chhattisgarh continues to pose the biggest challenge for security forces where almost 11,000 sq kms has no presence of security forces which gives Maoists the liberty to unleash their free reign. However, it is only a matter of time before the void is filled," CRPF Director General Prakash Mishra told PTI in an interview.
The south Chhattisgarh region, also known as the Bastar belt, comprises the worst-hit Naxal districts of Bastar, Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada, where the security forces have faced maximum reverses and suffered heavy loss of lives in the last five years. Two other districts-Kondagaon and Narayanpur-in the region too have reported Naxal violence off and on.
The area flagged most by the CRPF DG is the forest of 'Abujhmaad' where there is virtually no presence of security forces and other branches of administration owing to lack of basic amenities, difficult topography and thick vegetation.
The Maoists are known to take shelter in this region before and after conducting a raid or an ambush. Talking about the Left Wing Extremism (LWE), Mishra said after the overall security situation in various affected states eased, the focus of CRPF and other security agencies has shifted to this area of the central Indian state.
"It is well known and admitted by various quarters that the situation has definitely improved in all LWE states in general. In a recent press release, ahead of the 11th foundation day of the CPI (Maoists), the party has admitted to the weaknesses that have crept into the movement and the need to rework on the basics as well as the strategies.
"By their own admission, during the past one year, the number of Maoists eliminated has exceeded the losses incurred by the security forces for the first time after 2007," the CRPF chief said.
The force has been nominated by the government as the lead anti-Naxal operations force of the country and has deployed over one lakh men for these duties across nine LWE-hit states, including about 20,000 personnel in Chhattisgarh alone.
The CRPF is also in the process of inducting five more battalions (about 5,000 personnel) in this area in order to better "dominate" the border areas and cut-off regions which help in the movement of armed Maoist cadres.
Mishra, who took over the charge of the force in December last, has also been successful in bringing down casualties in in the force by bringing in major changes in operational
However, casualty suffered by CRPF troops due to Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blasts continues to be a serious reason for worry.
"The one issue I would like to prominently flag is the pilferage of explosives and detonators from the mining sector to the Maoists. Since 2010, we have recovered 5 metric tonnes of explosives as well as 55,400 detonators and it is unfortunate that we are losing more men to land mine blasts than to encounters with Maoists. This is a matter of serious concern," he said.
The DG of the over 3 lakh-strong force said the modus operandi of using more and more hidden explosives to target security forces is "an indicator that the Maoists are not willing to take us head on as they fear losses".
The DG said these attacks and ambushes have largely "proliferated in LWE affected states of Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand."
He said the force is trying to check these incidents by inducting some advanced field gadgets and developing newer standard operating procedures.