Chhattisgarh Maoist Attack: A Case of Weak Intel, Tactical Errors?

A police personnel said that they were surrounded from all sides and were attacked by prepared guerrillas.

Published
India
3 min read
File photo of an encounter between armed forces personnel and rebels.
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Days after hundreds of Maoist rebels ambushed security forces in Bijapur district’s Tekulagudam, situated around 12 km away from the Tarrem camp, a police jawan who survived the gunbattle, along with other security experts, think that the lethal attack may have been a trap laid by the rebels.

“There were so many of them, so suddenly...it had to be planned,” a wounded Chhattisgarh police personnel told The Indian Express.

As per police sources, normally an operation of this scale is launched after analysing human and tech intelligence. In this case, sources claimed that inputs on the whereabouts of the Naxal leader Madvi Hidma was received over the last one week, The Times of India reported.

What Had Happened?

A contingent of 1,500 troops, including members of the Special Task Force (STF), District Reserve Guard (DRG), District Force of the Chhattisgarh Police, the CRPF and its elite COBRA unit, had launched a search and destroy operation along the border of Bijapur and Sukma on Saturday, 3 April.

The operation was based on inputs of Naxal presence in the area. There were also intelligence inputs about the presence of a wanted Naxal leader Madvi Hidma.

The contingent was ambushed by a group of around 400 Maoists, possibly led by Hidma of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA). At least 22 security personnel were martyred and around 31 were injured.

What Went Wrong?

Speaking to The Indian Express, a police personnel involved in the gunbattle said, “We didn’t find anything when we reached the spot we were asked to reach. Once we started returning, they ambushed us,” an implication that intelligence on Maoists presence in the area may have been faulty.

The two villages – Jhiragaon and Teklagudem – that the security personnel passed, were also reportedly completely empty. “We realised too late that something was wrong,” another jawan said.

The personnel also stressed that they were surrounded from all sides, and were attacked by prepared guerrillas who were carrying sophisticated weaponry.

Tactical Questions Raised

Sources also told The Indian Express that the attack evidences a shortcoming in the kind of information the security forces get, raising questions of tactical importance.

Often operating off intercepts of information from a receiver on a hill in Dantewada, a senior officer said, “In Minpa a year ago, and now here, there are clear signs that the Maoists know we are listening to their code. We are being played. The kind of fire we came under, and the positions they took, show it was well-planned,” The Indian Express reported.

Another officer said the concept of large, 1,000-personnel operation will need concerted thought.

The officer said, “When there are large troop movements, in a large operation, senior officers fly in and fly out to Bijapur and Sukma, travel between camps happen. It is too unwieldy to be kept quiet,” adding that the most successful security operations, like Greyhound, have often been carried out by small teams.

‘No Intelligence Failure’: CM Baghel, CRPF Chief

Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, who was in Assam campaigning for the ongoing Assembly elections in the state, said on Sunday that there was "no intelligence failure" in the operation.

Baghel and Union Home Minister Amit Shah returned to Raipur and New Delhi, respectively, on Sunday evening.

CRPF Chief Kuldiep Singh told ANI, "There is no point in saying that 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.”

In response to Singh’s claim, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi retorted on Monday, “If there was no intelligence failure, then a 1:1 death ratio means it was a poorly designed and incompetently executed operation.”

He added, “Our jawans are not cannon fodder to be martyred at will.”

(With inputs from The Indian Express, The Times of India, ANI)

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