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Maoists kill two security personnel in Bijapur: Attack ahead of Narendra Modi's visit took place despite high alert

Making a mockery of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh’s recent claim that Maoists in the state have lost their foothold, the ultra-Left insurgents on Monday blew up a bus carrying security force personnel. The blast was carried out by using an improvised explosive device (IED) in Bijapur district. While two jawans were killed, five were reported injured.

This is the second attack on security personnel in the state in the span of a month. On 13 March, nine CRPF men lost their lives after Maoists attacked a Mine Protection Vehicle (MPV) —also known as anti-land mine vehicle — at Sukma in Bastar. In the attack in March, like the one on Monday, the blast was triggered by using an IED.

It is a further irony that Bijapur district is on a high alert on account of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit scheduled here.

This attack has also become a concern both for the Raman Singh government and the security forces, as the Naxals have protested the upcoming visit of Modi, who is expected to visit Jangla in Bijapur district on 14 April.

“By causing this blast, the Naxals have openly challenged the government and security forces ahead of the prime minister's Chhattisgarh visit. They also distributed pamphlets two days back. It’s a matter of great concern,” a Bastar-based source told Firstpost.

 Maoists kill two security personnel in Bijapur: Attack ahead of Narendra Modis visit took place despite high alert

The bus blown up by Maoists in Bijapur in Chhattisgarh. Image procured by Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

The Chhattisgarh chief minister on Sunday had claimed that “frustrated Maoists are losing their foothold due to the action of state and central security forces”.

He was perhaps making this statement on the basis of the killing of ten Maoists in March. The ten insurgents were gunned down in a a joint operation by elite anti-Naxal force Greyhounds from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and the state police forces of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Odisha. The chief minister may also have been referring to the 'surrender' of 29 Maoists.

What actually happened?

According to the CRPF and Chhattisgarh police, a bus carrying district police personnel was sent to Kurtu from Bijapur in the morning. On their way back in the afternoon, Maoists triggered a blast near Gudma, which is between Naamed and Kurtu. The front portion of the bus got badly damaged. Immediately after the blast, the Maoists opened fire at the bus and escaped.

“CRPF and CoBRA force immediately reached the spot as we’ve been on an area domination exercise. The Naxals had distributed pamphlets in the area. Troops during the search recovered an unused IED from the spot,” a CRPF official said.

In another incident on Monday near Chinnakodepal on the Bijapur-Bhopalapattnam highway, Maoists triggered two back-to-back blasts aiming at the police. There had been firing from both ends—the Maoists and the police. Though no casualty has been reported, the blast badly damaged the road, causing a 10-foot deep crater.

Experts believe that another security lapse caused the blast.

“This attack again raises multiple questions. Despite a high alert and security due to the prime minister's upcoming visit to Bijapur, how could the blast take place in the same district? If area domination was going on, how could the incident happen? Why was a bus full of policemen sent alone without escorting vehicles? Was no clearance taken from road opening party (ROP) ahead of sending the bus? Were standard operating procedures (SOP) followed?,” asked counter-terrorism analyst Anil Kamboj.

According to SOPs, unless there is clearance from ROP, no vehicle or troops in large numbers can move. A bus or vehicle carrying troops is always escorted by at least two vehicles—one at the front and the other at the rear.

“Firstly, the Naxals are highly efficient in terms of having a parallel intelligence system through the local network, which often keeps them ahead of security forces. Second, these IPS officers, who are usually untrained to handle anti-Naxal operations, fail to see the dangers ahead. They issue orders while sitting in their chambers. Only trained commandants like those from the CoBRA or Greyhounds should lead such operations,” Kamboj, who had led forces in various insurgency-hit zones, including Bastar, told Firstpost.

“Moreover, the Maoist cadre was well aware about the route on which the bus travelled. Based on their intelligence input, they planted IEDs on the route. They are precise on their targets,” a local source said.

Why do Maoists continue to remain a matter of concern?

The months of March and April are considered as the most opportune ones for launching Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) against the Maoists, with the weather making a transition from winter to summer and trees shedding leaves. The leafless landscape provides good visibility in the dense forests of the Maoist hotbed of Bastar. So, while the Maoists look out for an ambush, the security forces aim at encounter operations.

Let us take a look at data. The months of March and April have consistently witnessed large-scale casualties due to Maoist attacks on the CRPF and police personnel. In March 2014, 15 CRPF and policemen were killed, followed by 25 in April 2014; 12 in March 2017, 26 in April 2017; nine in March 2018 and two on 9 April 2018.

Despite these alarming figures, Maoists are successful in causing large-scale damage and casualties every year. The state government’s claim seems hollow.

“There is a stark difference between the claims made by the government and the ground reality. Despite high security, the Maoists again succeeded in blowing up a bus carrying policemen in Bijapur district. The Maoists had distributed ‘parchas’ (pamphlets) and registered their protests against the prime minister’s visit to Bijapur. This shows that the Maoists are still strong and successful in doing what they want,” said RS Bhatnagar, a Bastar-based expert on Naxal movement in Chhattisgarh.

A Maoist pamphlet pasted on a tree trunk in Bijapur. Image procured by Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

A Maoist pamphlet pasted on a tree trunk in Bijapur. Image procured by Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

Government’s stand

The Modi government, since 2014, has made it clear that no compromise would be made in tackling Naxalism and terrorism of any form. The Centre has released funds for Maoist-hit districts for infrastructure development. The Centre recently provided a special fund of Rs 600 crore for the aspirational districts, out of which seven are from Chhattisgarh.

Taking a dig at the sympathisers of Maoists and terrorists, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu at the Valour Day function of CRPF on Monday said, “Human rights are for the ‘manav’ (humans) and not for the 'danav’ (demons).”

While hailing the contribution of security forces, he ensured that no compromise would be made on combating Naxalism and terrorism.

There is no doubt that there has been a decline in Maoist incidents in the country as a considerable number of Maoists, including some of their leaders, have been gunned down and a large number of the cadre have surrendered. Despite this, the situation in the Bastar belt of Chhattisgarh continues to be alarming and poses a grave concern both for the government and security forces. At least the incidents and casualties speak so.

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Updated Date: Apr 09, 2018 22:59:11 IST