New Delhi: A day after 25 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed in an ambush by Maoists in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, the home ministry on Tuesday ordered a probe into the incident.
Home minister Rajnath Singh who was in Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur along with state chief minister Raman Singh to pay homage to the slain soldiers said at a press meet, “The incident at Sukma was cold-blooded murder. I have discussed the entire matter with CRPF officials and although we do not disclose our strategy, we will meet on 8 May to revise our anti-Naxal strategy and seek to renew it.”
Combing operations by the CRPF continued on Tuesday in Sukma after Monday’s attack between the villages of Chintagufa and Burkapal, where the men from CRPF’s 74th battalion were out on a road opening party (ROP) to provide security to road building projects.
The CRPF said that villagers had been observing the movement of the forces around the road construction project and had tipped off the left wing extremists. The Maoists, taking advantage of the forest cover, opened fire at the security personnel from their vantage points, inflicting heavy damage on the CRPF.
Senior security adviser to the home ministry and acting CRPF DG, K. Vijay Prasad has denied any failure of intelligence.
“The villagers were being used by the Naxalites to get information about the troops’ movements. There is no intelligence failure. No action can be taken against them because it is impossible to discern who is a plainclothes Naxalite and who isn’t,” said a senior CRPF official, on condition of anonymity, at the headquarters in New Delhi.
While Rajnath Singh also reiterated that “nobody was to blame for the incident,” the CRPF continues to remain headless, with the home ministry failing to appoint a director general (DG) for the three-lakh strong CRPF, two months after the retirement of DG K. Durga Prasad. Rajnath Singh however, brushed aside questions on this, saying there was no dearth of leadership within the CRPF.
The episode comes as an embarrassment for the home ministry that claimed in March that Left-Wing Extremism was on the decline.
MHA data claims that “Comparison of violence data of 2017 (up to 28 February 2017) with the corresponding period of last year reflects a decline of 20% (225 to 181) in number of violent incidents. The resultant deaths have also decreased by 6% (49 to 46).”
According to CRPF documents seen by Mint, 222 Maoists were killed by security forces in India in 2016, as opposed to 89 in 2015.
With the Maoists’ ‘mobile warfare technique’ continues to befuddle security forces in Chhattisgarh, senior CRPF officials based in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district told Mint that outsmarting them was a far cry.
“The main reason for this is the fact that the jungles provide them with a huge tactical advantage because they know it in and out. If a soldier is to go that deep into the forest, he must be adequately prepared with food, medicines, arms, etc—the physical weight of which can restrict movement. When the Naxals believe the enemy is strong, they don’t attack. So if we go well-prepared, they simply vanish and the moment we retreat, they come back,” said Dinesh Pratap Upadhyay, Deputy Inspector General (Ops), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Dantewada district.
Upadhyay added that greater coordination was required between the CRPF and the state police to eliminate Maoist extremists from the region.
“In Andhra Pradesh, it was eliminated because N. Chandrababu Naidu brought in widespread development and the intelligence network of the Andhra Police was very strong. Police coordination with CRPF is also better in areas like Jharkhand. As a result because of things like road network, intelligence network and better coordination with police, Jharkhand and Andhra have been more successful in eliminating Naxalism,” he said.