New Delhi: Weeks after the home ministry removed 44 districts from the list of regions affected by left-wing extremism (LWE), the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has decided to move deeper into Chhattisgarh’s uncharted Naxal territories.

The central paramilitary force plans to set up 17 new camps across the Naxal-dominated districts of the state, according to documents reviewed by Mint. Each camp will have a deployment of two companies of CRPF. Each company will have 110 soldiers on an average.

“Camps are being set up across Sukma, Bijapur and Balrampur districts. In some areas, road and bridge construction has to be first carried out before setting up the camps, otherwise it would become difficult to provide administrative support to the companies deployed there," said a senior home ministry official, seeking anonymity.

Setting up camps was fraught with risks as “Naxals often wait before opening fire on the soldiers who are part of new camps", he added.

While Sukma district witnesses maximum Naxal activity, Abujmarh in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district had largely remained beyond the control of the security forces, but for one camp at its periphery. Now, the CRPF has decided to move into the 3,900sq. km area, considered the “nerve centre of Naxals in Chhattisgarh".

The CRPF said the decision was taken after 62 Naxals who surrendered in Narayanpur last week said that there was growing discontent among cadres. The top brass felt that it was time to break further into the Naxal territory.

“Cadres are not happy with the change in leadership. Outside leaders are being brought in and they are commanding local cadres. In Odisha, a top cadre surrendered, claiming that they had put in all the hard work and an outside leader comes and upsets their working," said a senior CRPF officer from Chhattisgarh, on the condition of anonymity.

The rising number of civilian killings by Naxals has also led to a drop in support from the locals. Security forces hope that this will eventually work in their favour.

However, given the vulnerability of the CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh, security experts said that porous state borders also required to be fortified. “State borders are less policed and so Naxal movement is easy. There needs to be more specific intelligence on their movement and where the Naxals will hit next," said Gurmeet Kanwal, defence analyst at New Delhi’s Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.

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