In what has been labelled the worst Naxal attack in four years, as many as 22 security forces personnel were killed and 31 others were injured on 3 April in an encounter with armed Maoists in a forest along the border between Bijapur and Sukma districts in Chhattisgarh.
Bodies of 17 security personnel have so far been recovered from Bijapur. Out of the total 22 deaths, eight were from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), eight from the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and six from the Special Task Force (STF). Out of the 31 injured personnel, 16 belong to the CRPF.
The CRPF has also announced that one constable, Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, of the elite CoBRA unit of the CRPF, was missing. However, according to media reports, the jawan is being held captive by the Maoists.
This was no tiny operation. A contingent of 1,500 troops had launched a search and destroy operation along the border of Bijapur and Sukma, after getting inputs about Naxal presence in the area. The contingent was ambushed by a group of around 400 Maoists, possibly led by wanted leader Madvi Hidma of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army.
However, questions are now been raised if there was an intelligence leak or an operational failure after a report by The Indian Express quoted several police personnel who were involved in the gun-battle saying that they were blindsided by the Naxals.
So, in today’s episode, we will try to ascertain what kind of intelligence in required to mount a security force like the one in Bijapur, the misconceptions about the Naxals, and the fundamentals of battling the group.
To discuss all this, we spoke with Dr NC Asthana, a retired IPS officer, who has been DGP Kerala and a long-time ADG CRPF and BSF.