Experts warn of strong Maoist retaliation after massive setback in Gadchiroli; huge cache of ammo found in Chattisgarh's Kanker

Two days after at least 37 Maoists were killed in encounters in Gadchiroli area of Maharashtra, experts believe that complacency on the part of cops as well as security forces could be a grave lapse as Maoists are known to avenge the killing of their comrades.

"The fight is not over yet. Maoists can hit back in a bigger manner in the next 45-60 days. It'll be a big mistake if one thinks that Maoists have become weaker after Gadchiroli encounter," Prakash Singh, internal security expert and an authority on Left-wing extremism (LWE), told Firstpost.

His view was echoed by other defence and security experts. The ultra-Left extremists would try to send the message that "we are alive and kicking," they said.

Meanwhile, the police of states currently dealing with Maoists, including Chhattisgarh, have issued alerts to Maoist-hit districts close to Gadchiroli.

 Experts warn of strong Maoist retaliation after massive setback in Gadchiroli; huge cache of ammo found in Chattisgarhs Kanker

Explosive-tipped arrow recovered at Kanker. Image procured by Debobrat Ghose

Other Maoist-infested districts in Chhattisgarh too, like Dantewada, Sukma, Bijapur, Kanker, are on high alert. The move comes especially after a huge cache of arms and ammunition was recovered from Kanker on Wednesday.

According to Chhattisgarh police, the ammunition was recovered after an encounter between the Maoists and security forces in the deep forests of Kanker on 23 April, in which a jawan of the Border Security Force (BSF) got severely injured. The anti-bomb squad of the state police recovered 24 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), 40 explosive-tipped arrows, and a rocket launcher, amid other things. The police strongly believe that the Maoists have been preparing for an ambush.

It's not the first time that explosive-tipped arrows have been recovered in Chhattisgarh. Earlier, besides landmines, the Maoists also used these 'Rambo-style' arrows during an ambush on CRPF team at Kottacheru in the Bhejji area of Sukma on 11 March 2017. This gruesome incident was subsumed in the deafening celebrations of the BJP's electoral victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. But twelve CRPF jawans were killed in that incident.

Taking a leaf out of the Hollywood blockbuster Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), in which actor Sylvester Stallone uses explosive-tipped arrows to take on his enemies single-handedly, the Maoists used explosive-tipped arrows to distract the attention of security forces, while leading them into an ambush trap dotted with landmines.

"Over the last few days, we've been recovering arms and ammunition from various locations in Bastar. Immediately after the Gadchiroli encounter, we issued alerts keeping possible retaliation in mind," DM Awasthi, special director general (Naxal Operations), Chattisgarh police told Firstpost.

Earlier in several instances, the Maoist cadre unleashed unexpected attacks on security forces as retaliation, which was not restricted to Chhattisgarh, but occurred in other states as well.

Considered as one of the biggest successes in the anti-Maoist operations in the country, the credit goes to Gadchiroli police, including its elite commando force C-60 and CRPF battalion, for acting effectively on local intelligence inputs, efficient coordination, quick response and lightening attack on the ultra-Left rebels who had gathered near Kasnasur village in Maharashtra’s Bhamragad tehsil on 22 April.

Even after Sunday, the police and security force continued their joint operation and eliminated a total of 37 Maoists in Gadchiroli. The effect of it is visible in the Maoist-hotbed Bastar in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh, which is more sensitive area than Gadchiroli.

The recovery of IEDs and other ammunition has put Mahala village in Kanker district in spotlight. In the last five years, the Maoist cadre took a back foot in this highly sensitive area, but Wednesday's recovery has compelled the police to be on their toes.

"We're closely liaisoning with all the Naxal-affected states through proper coordination and cooperation on operation front. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited and stayed for more than four hours in one of the most dreaded Maoist-infested districts of Bijapur. We've ensured a similar security arrangement for all the districts," added Awasthi.

The internal security experts have suggested that the police and security forces in Chhattisgarh, and elsewhere, must continue to follow the methodology being adopted by the Gadchiroli police so that they are not caught unaware.

"It's not over. As Maoists are expected to go very aggressive, Gadchiroli methodology — whether it's inter-state coordination or acting fast on intelligence inputs —must continue. The state police whether in Chhattisgarh or elsewhere must ensure this," Major General (retd) Dhruv Katoch, defence and strategic expert said.

"State government must ensure proper communication and coordination between the state police and para-military forces. There shouldn't be any conflict at the leadership level, because Maoists wait for an opportune moment to strike back and they'll do it. The joint operation at Gadchiroli showed the way," former director general, BSF and ex-Uttar Pradesh DGP, Prakash Singh said.

Updated Date: Apr 25, 2018 21:25:06 IST