With security forces under pressure to ensure that civilians do not get caught in cross-fire in the Red Corridor, Maoists have started deploying members of the Jan Militia in plains clothes as human shields during attacks on the forces.
Home Ministry officials said forces fighting naxals were being advised to account for this strategy in its operations.
The naxal change in strategy comes after the June 28 encounter between a joint team of CRPF and Chhattisgarh police in Bijapur district in which 17 people — initially believed to be naxals — were killed.
The ministry had subsequently asked security forces to reduce the collateral damage in encounters to the minimum, even if it meant letting the naxals slip away under the cover of darkness.
Conscious that the forces would hesitate to fire at civilians, the new naxal strategy came to the fore during operations by the CRPF in Basaguda area of Bijapur district. The CRPF dispatched its teams after receiving inputs that two explosive experts and a local commander were planting landmines in the area.
A noticeable feature of the three encounters that followed was that the uniformed CPI (Maoists) cadres put Jan Militia members in plain clothes in front as human shields.
“If any of them got killed, their front organisations would claim villagers were killed. If we do not deal with the shields, our men will get killed,” a senior ministry official said.