Raipur: The naxal attack that has resulted in the killing of 22 security personnel, is yet another indication that the Maoists are still calling the shots in this part of Chhattisgarh.
The attack occurred at the Sukma-Bijapur border in Bastar division, an area marked by heavy forest cover and hilly terrain, Saturday.
Senior police officials in Bastar district told ThePrint that around 800 to 1,000 Maoists are still active at the Sukma-Bijapur border areas. The encounter Saturday occurred at Jonaguda village, which lies in this border region.
A senior police officer engaged in anti-naxal operations told ThePrint under the condition of anonymity, that the region offers the Maoists safe havens in the form of dense forest cover and hilly terrain.
“Jonaguda village where the naxals ambushed the security forces on Saturday is part of the Maoist corridor where top naxal commanders and functionaries are holed up,” the officer said. “This includes their dreaded Battalion 1 led by hardcore naxal commander Hidma and the Centeral Regional Committee (CRC) that guards top functionaries of the central committee of the CPI (Maoist) who are hiding in Chhattisgarh.”
According to the officer, apart from Battalion 1 and the CRC, a few other companies of naxals are active at the Sukma-Bijapur border.
The CRPF had been looking to increase its presence in the area.
Bastar IG Sundarraj had told ThePrint in December last year that five CRPF battalions comprising 30 companies were to be stationed in the Sukma-Bijapur border to counter the Maoists.
The deployment process, which had begun last year, is still underway though there is no clarity on where the battalions are being stationed.
The Bijapur Superintendent of Police (SP), Kamlochan Kashyap, however, told ThePrint that the Maoist sphere of influence is reducing.
“The Sukma-Bijapur border and the areas in the south of Bastar division are perhaps the last bastion of Maoists in the region, apart from a few pockets of Narayanpur district,” Kashyap said. “But their major hideouts lie at the Sukma and Bijapur border area. Naxals will be on the run once the deployment of CRPF is complete in this part of Bastar. They are already feeling the heat and are killing villagers after branding them as police informers.”
The Bastar division has of late witnessed a spate of violent incidents involving the Maoists. The Bastar division includes the districts of Bastar, Kanker, Narayanpur, Kondagoan, Dantewada, Sukma and Bijapur.
Saturday’s ambush comes close on the heels of the IED attack on a bus carrying security personnel at Narayanpur district on 23 March, which killed five District Reserve Guard (DRG) personnel.
Last year, on 21 March, Maoists had ambushed and killed 17 security personnel at Minpa area of Sukma district.
Two years before that, in 2018, Maoist had struck at Sukma district killing nine CRPF personnel.
The senior police officer quoted above said that Saturday’s attack as well as the ambush in March 2020 were led by the naxal commander Hidma, who heads Battalion 1 of the Maoists.
The officer also said that in Saturday’s ambush, there were two more naxal companies involved.
“In fact security personnel were caught off guard as they suddenly came under indiscriminate fire from three formations of the naxals at Jonaguda village,” the officer said,
Eyewitnesses told ThePrint that almost 16 bodies of the killed security personnel lay unclaimed at the village for over 24 hours after the incident.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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