Sukma Naxal attack: Three key roads are at the heart of battle for Chhattisgarh's forests

Monday's Maoist attack on a CRPF battalion in Chhattisgarh's Sukma was the fifth such attack in the same place in recent memory, and the second in just the last month. This has also made 2017 the most dangerous year for security forces in Chhattisgarh, with 72 personnel being killed.

In the latest instance, the CRPF jawans were deployed in Sukma to monitor a road that was under construction. They were to protect the road and also the employees working on it. But the Maoists' ambush took the jawans by surprise. A survivor said over 300 Maoist guerillas attacked their battalion, of whom 10-12 were killed by the CRPF in retaliation.

CRPF personnel injured in a Maoist attack in Sukma. PTI

CRPF personnel injured in a Maoist attack in Sukma. PTI

As reported by Indian Express, three roads are under construction to connect Jagargunda with Dornapal in the East, which was also the one that was attacked on Monday; Bijapur in the West, and Kirandul in the North. "Of the three under-construction roads, the first is a 75-km stretch of NH-30, connecting Sukma with Konta. The second connects Injeram and Bhejji, which came under attack on 11 March, leaving 13 CRPF men dead. The third — the stretch where Monday's ambush occurred — is a road that connects Dornapal on NH 30, with Jagargunda," the report said.

The area is controlled by the Maoist insurgents, and the government believes the way to regain control is by having infrastructure like roads in place. To this end, Jagargunda is especially critical, since it has been a trading hub for the area's tribals.

As mentioned in The Indian Express report, buses used to connect this area with Bijapur and Sukma, something that stopped after the Maoists took control. "The extremists have increasingly damaged the roads connecting Jagargunda in an effort to cut it off from the rest of the state. Jagargunda has a police station and a CRPF camp. Monday's encounter took place just off Burkapal. The 56-km under-construction stretch has five police stations and 15 CRPF camps," the report added.

Considering the area has witnessed Maoist attacks in the past as well, the CRPF may have looked to increase its presence in the area. Strengthening its network of roads has been among the Chhattisgarh state government's key strategies to counter the presence of Naxalites in the area.

As Hindustan Times reported, a 99-strong team has been deployed to provide security to workers building the road. The report said Monday's attack only reinforces the theory that the Maoists and the state government both believe infrastructural development could be the first step towards gaining control of the areas. "For the rebels, the roads mean quick access for government troops into their heartland, and cancelling their turf advantage of hostile terrain and guerrilla warfare," the report said.

It would also enable the state administration to bring in schools, hospitals and ancillary development to wean away local villagers from the rebels. "Security forces will move with ease in the area after this road is built and this is troubling the Maoists. We are entering their core through this road," DM Awasthi, special director general of police (anti-Maoist operations), was quoted as saying in the Hindustan Times article.

Updated Date: Apr 25, 2017 13:32 PM

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