RAIPUR: At least 25 CRPF personnel were killed in a three-hour-long gunbattle with the CPI (Maoist) in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh on Monday. While eight others were injured, seven personnel, including the Commander of Central Forces, were reported missing after the attack.
Chief Minister Raman Singh convened a high-level meeting and called for a greater need to remain vigilant and formulate better strategies to counter Maoist threat. Sukma has emerged as the new headquarters of the Maoist rebels, the Chief Minister said.
The call assumes significance as the attack seems to have happened due to an intelligence failure. A CRPF officer told Express there were no inputs on presence or movement of armed rebels in such large strength. “We were caught off-guard,” he said, adding there were three rebels for every jawan trapped in the attack.
The selection of ambush location and trapping of jawans suggest the level of preparedness and information gathered by the ultras. The Chhattisgarh police did not respond to queries on failure of intelligence inputs. “We need to find out”, the DGP A N Upadhyay said.
What is more shocking is villagers briefing Maoists about the movement of troops.
“In guerrilla warfare, local population have to be at the centre of gravity. It appears there is a trust deficit with forces as tribals, for whatever reasons, having come out in support of an outlawed group,” Brigadier (Retd) B K Ponwar, director of Kanker-based Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College told Express.
Also, the forces reportedly took a break, on their way back from the Road Opening Party, for food. “If that is true, it exposes how jungle warfare rules were flouted by security forces by moving in a casual manner in areas having strong presence of guerillas,” Ponwar added.
The Chhattisgarh Nagrik Sangarsh Samiti too denounced some decisions of the State’s anti-Naxal strategy. “Why is the base for providing inputs for Maoist-affected districts located in Bhilai instead of suitable locations in Bastar?” asked Vishwajeet Mitra, convener of the Samiti.
“Troopers must remain doubly cautious, especially during return journeys after operations. The rebels had their own local intelligence to understand the movements of forces. Being casual will offer rebels enough scope to find their enemy’s weak spots. If they had taken a break to have food under a tree, it is extremely shocking. Such negligence proves fatal,” Ponwar added.
CRPF's official handle tweeted out the details of the 25 personnel who were killed in the ambush: