Nine CRPF jawans were killed in an IED blast of a Mine-Protected Vehicle (MPV) triggered by Maoists in Kistaram jungle of South Bastar, and many were injured. The flexibility of Maoist planning seems remarkable. The government troops were evidently taken by surprise. Some four hours before the IED blast around noon, the Naxalites had engaged CRPF’s Cobra 208 battalion in a fierce gunbattle. It’s open to question if two separate movements by the CRPF in the country’s most dangerous location in the context of left-wing extremism should have occurred just hours apart on the same day. Was there time for advance preparatory work based on firm intelligence, that seems to be an area of serious deficiency that hasn’t been tackled over the years?
As more details these two attacks come out, we are likely to learn that not only have government forces absorbed all too little in dealing with extremists in Bastar, but that their weapons and equipment are sub-standard. As this newspaper has reported, at least three grenades fired from under barrel grenade launchers failed to go off. In this encounter too, the government forces were surprised by a large force of armed Maoists — around 100 fighters. It is evident that CRPF jawans engaged in the firefight were served by poor or scanty intelligence all over again. Probably the brave jawans sally forth with a prayer on their lips instead of any advance information of the adversary’s movements and plans. In the second of two incidents, an MPV was blown about 10 feet high before it crashlanded.
Apparently upto 50 kg of explosives was packed in the IED. This means it was a well-planned operation executed with professional thoroughness, as if the MPV carrying men returning to duty at their Palodi camp was expected by the Maoists. That indicates first class intelligence. On the other hand, the CRPF’s information was anything but first rate. Hours earlier, because the district’s SP had travelled safely on the same stretch, it was assumed that the road-opening party had already sanitised the route and the MPV carrying men returning to work from leave could proceed. This speaks of shoddy intelligence and lackadaisical leadership.
The government needs to step in on an immediate basis to take corrective steps in terms of training, providing quality equipment, and intelligence and coordination with the state police. The lives of too many people in uniform are at stake. It also seems that the Centre has decided to use only military means to deal with the population in the poorest parts of the country influenced by the Maoist insurgency. This is faulty policy. A positive outreach to the people is crucial to the defeat of any extremist threat. What has happened to the earlier special plans for tribal areas?