Opinion

The Chhattisgarh Naxal Attack – What Went Wrong and the History of Naxalism?

India has been dealing with the problem of Terrorism since its independence but since 2014, this seems to have taken the Centre stage in every political rally and every foreign agenda of the country.

At least 22 security personnel were killed and 31 suffered serious injuries following an exchange of fire between forces and Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur. Chhattisgarh Police said in a statement that at least 12 Naxalites were killed and 16 injured in the gun battle following the ambush. The security forces were ambushed by around 400 Naxals, who surrounded the jawans from three sides and opened fire.

Cobra jawan Rakeshwar Singh Manhas who was kidnapped by the Naxals during Bijapur attack on April 3, has been released by them on 08th April 2021. CoBRA jawan was released in the presence of the 05 reporters, two mediators appointed by the government ‘Padma Shri Dharmpal Saini’ and Gondwana ‘Samaj head Telam Buraiya— and thousands of villagers.

Cobra Jawan Rakeshwar Singh released in front of thousands of villagers

All You Need to Know About the Attack in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur

At least 22 security personnel were killed and 31 sustained injuries in the encounter with Naxals along the Sukma-Bijapur border on Saturday. The deceased included eight from the District Reserve Guard (DRG), seven from the CRPF’s CoBRA, six from the Special Task Force and one from the ‘Bastariya’ battalion of the CRPF. An officer said most of the security personnel died of bullet injuries while one is suspected to have fainted and later died due to dehydration.

Director-General of CRPF Kuldiep Singh said some 10-12 Naxals were believed to have died in the gunbattle.

The operation was launched based on the intelligence inputs about the presence of Naxalites of PLGA (Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army) Battalion No. 1 led by Hidma, a Naxal commander involved in many deadly attacks on security forces. “At least 400 Naxals suspected to be led by most wanted Naxalite commander Hidma and his associate Sujatha ambushed the forces in an area that is a stronghold of the Naxalites due to the difficult terrain, large tracts of forests and a smaller number of camps of security forces,” an officer said.

Bijapur Naxal Attack - Naxal History and current agendas

DG CRPF Kuldiep Singh said there was absolutely no intelligence failure in the operation. “There’s no point in saying that there was some kind of intelligence or operational failure. Had it been some intelligence failure, forces would haven’t gone for operation. If there was some operational failure, so many Naxals would haven’t been killed,” news agency ANI quoted DG CRPF Kuldiep Singh as saying.

The Naxals used low-intensity improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and light machine guns (LMGs) during the encounter that continued for several hours. The security personnel took cover behind large trees and kept firing till they ran out of ammunition, an official told PTI. “The Naxalites drew the forces into an ambush with heavy gunfire and encircled the security personnel from three sides. A heavy gun-battle ensued in the jungles that are devoid of any foliage at present,” the official said.

On Sunday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah chaired a high-level meeting to review the situation in Chhattisgarh. “Our security men have lost their lives. We will not tolerate this bloodshed and a befitting reply will be given at an appropriate time. Our fight against Naxalites will continue with strength, perseverance and intensity, and we will take it to the end,” he said.

The Chhattisgarh Police will submit a report on the Bijapur encounter to Union Home Ministry on Monday. The report will be submitted first to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel before being sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Top leaders and ministers extended their condolences to the families of the deceased soldiers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said their sacrifices would never be forgotten. “My thoughts are with the families of those martyred while fighting Naxalites in Chhattisgarh. The sacrifices of the brave martyrs will never be forgotten. May the injured recover at the earliest,” PM Modi said in a tweet. President Ram Nath Kovind said, “The killing of the security personnel while battling Naxal insurgency in Chhattisgarh is a matter of deep anguish. My condolences to the bereaved families. The nation shares their pain and will never forget this sacrifice.”

Meanwhile, France and Turkey also condoled the death of 22 security personnel. French Ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain said, “Heartfelt condolences for the losses suffered by the security personnel in Chhattisgarh. Our thoughts go out to the families of the victims and to the injured, for whom we wish a speedy recovery.”

The worst Naxal attack till date is the 2010 strike on security forces, where 76 CRPF and state police personnel were killed at the Chintalnar area of Dantewada. In March of 2013, 25 CRPF personnel were gunned down in the Sukma area.

What Went Wrong?

22 soldiers martyred and at least 31 wounded. Only sketchy details of the botched operation have appeared in the media. From whatever that is available in the public domain, it is clear that

  • A very large number of men (over 2,000 according to one report) were pushed into the jungle.
  • They were taken by complete surprise in an ambush by the Naxals.
  • The Naxals ambushed the troops at a place and time of their choice, leaving little chance for them to defend themselves even as they fought heroically.
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