Heavy casualty suffered by the security forces in the dense forest of Bijapur in Chhattisgarh on Saturday (April 3) may have been a result of faulty intelligence, even as state Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel denied any such failure.
About 22 security personnel were killed and over 30 sustained injuries in one of the worst Maoist attacks in Chhattisgarh so far.
Replying to a charge that personnel belonging to the CoBRA unit of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) walked into a Maoist trap, CRPF Director General Kuldeep Singh said, “There is no point in saying there was some kind of intelligence or operational failure. Had it been some intelligence failure, forces would have not gone for the operation. And if there was some operational failure, so many Maoists would have not been killed.”
“We suspect that 25-30 of them are injured and about one-third of them have died,’ Singh added.
Meanwhile, Union home minister Amit Shah said there will be a “befitting reply” to the attack by insurgents.
A total of 2,000 personnel of the CoBRA unit of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Bastar Battalion, entered the dense forest of Jagargunda-Jonaguda-Tarrem on receiving inputs about the presence of two top Maoist leaders — Madvi Hidma, the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army’s (PLGA) battalion commander and his associate Sujatha. NDTV quoted sources to say it “turned out to be a well laid trap”.
Hidma, 30, is a wanted bandit, carrying a cash reward of ₹40 lakh on his head. He is wanted for orchestrating several attacks on security forces, including the March 11 ambush in Sukma which killed 25 CRPF jawans and the May 2013 attack in Jeeram Valley which claimed 32 lives, including Congress leaders.
The intelligence directed one of the CoBRA teams to the spot where they thought Hidma will be hiding, but were attacked by some 600 Left Wing Extremists (LWE), who used rocket launchers, hand grenades and other sophisticated weapons.
Ashok Jueja, head of the anti-Naxal operations, said the fight lasted about 4 hours starting around 11.30 am.
The CRPF personnel fought hard till they ran out of ammunition. The Maoist side too must have lost about 30 fighters, but their bodies were not found because, as is the trend, Maoists carry their dead and injured along with them, said officials.
A CRPF official told The Indian Express, “In the core areas, Maoists have the ability to quickly organise an offensive. If you are conducting an operation for long hours, they will come to know about your presence and mobilise their forces. So, them appearing prepared does not always mean that they have prior information about the movement of our forces.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “If there was no intelligence failure then a 1:1 death ratio means it was a poorly designed and incompetently executed operation. Our jawans are not cannon fodder to be martyred at will.”
Amit Shah accompanied CM Baghel to Jagdalpur on Monday (April 5) to pay last respects to the martyrs. Shah said the Maoists will get a “befitting reply”. He will hold a meeting with other state leaders and officials, besides paying visit to the injured CRPF personnel in Raipur later in the day.