New Delhi: The CRPF has suspended its commander who led the team which came under attack by Naxalites in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma on 24 April, leaving 25 personnel dead.
While the company commander, Assistant Commandant J Vishwanath, has been suspended for alleged “failure of leadership", the commanding officer of the 74th battalion, Commandant Firoze Kuzur, has been shifted out of Chhattisgarh.
The 25 slain men belonged to the ‘Delta’ company of the 74th Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and were deployed in the Naxal hotbed between Burkapal and Chintagufa in Sukma district, one of the worst-hit by ultra-Left violence.
Seeking to set its house in order after 37 troopers were killed in two recent Naxal ambush in Sukma, the force has also transferred at least half-a-dozen Commandants and a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) posted in the Bastar region, and has replaced them with some of some of its best officers serving in other parts of the country.
Top CRPF officers told PTI the suspension of the Assistant Commandant was ordered following receipt of a preliminary report about shortcomings that might have led to the massacre. Some others, however, described the transfers are “routine".
People familiar with the matter indicated disciplinary action could be taken against some more officers on the directions of the Union home ministry, to whom the CRPF recently submitted a report on the ambush. They said newly appointed CRPF Director General R R Bhatnagar has cracked the whip and asked for a “complete overhaul" of the battalions deployed for counter-insurgency and anti-Naxal operations in the inhospitable terrain of Bastar. They said the AC was commanding the 99 personnel-strong team on the fateful day of April 24, and the flank that came under attack was led by Inspector Raghubir Singh, who was killed in the ambush.
Around noon, a group of personnel having lunch came under heavy fire near Burkapal in which 25 men were killed and 22 sophisticated firearms, including 13 AK series assault rifles, 5 INSAS rifles, 3,420 cartridges, 22 bulletproof jackets and other equipment were looted.
Officials said the preliminary inquiry conducted by the force has found an “apparent lack of leadership" on the part of the company commander in effectively dealing with the attack and directing the rest of the men to effectively retaliate. The attack is said to have been launched by about 150-200 Naxals. A similar attack on March 11 had killed 12 CRPF personnel in Bheji in the same district.
“These actions have been taken based on preliminary findings. Once the ongoing Court of Inquiry concludes, it will bring out the clear picture," a senior official said. In order to address issues of fatigue and demotivation, DG Bhatnagar has also mooted plans to rotate one-third of the manpower of the battalions that are deployed in the interiors of the Bastar region, the official said.
The area where the attack took place is considered the stronghold of south Bastar Divisional Committee headed by Maoist commander Raghu. It functions under the Jagargunda Area Committee led by another dreaded Naxalite leader Papa Rao. Officials had earlier said the assault was led by the 1st battalion of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) headed by Naxal commander Hidma who is said to be active in the area at present.