The landmine blast in southern Chhattisgarh on Thursday, which claimed 12 lives, was three years in the making.
Maoists had packed two plastic buckets with explosives and planted them three years ago beneath the only motorable road connecting the towns of Konta and Banda, the last outpost of government forces, 496 kms from the state capital Raipur. The Maoists knew that security forces would eventually use the road; all they had to do was activate the bomb.
Investigations show that's precisely what they did on Thursday — they simply wired up the explosives to a plunger or battery to blow up 10 jawans of the India Reserve Battalion (Mizo) and two civilians. Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range) Rajender Vij told
: "Only the wires were freshly laid; the mine was planted long ago. The Maoists were closely watching the forces and finally found their opportunity."
The area is part of a 1.3 lakh sq km zone where the Indian state has ceded control to the armed rebels. The latest flashpoint is a 5 metric tonnes Tata steel plant scheduled to come up by next year on 1,450 hectares of agricultural land, displacing 1,800 villagers in 10 villages.
team visited Konta on November 9, a few special police officers had cautioned against venturing on the road where Thursday's attack occurred.
"There are landmines and whenever we accompany forces in the area we travel on foot. Even if we are offered a vehicle, we refuse it as it's an easy target," Podiyam Dulla (19) had said.
Police believe the attack was meant to be a warning to tribals who have joined the state-sponsored anti-Maoist 'Salwa Judum' movement.
Murliguda village, where the mine was set off, was vacated by its 50-odd tribal families two years ago after they joined the Salwa Judum.
These families are now in the Konta relief camp and many of their youth are special police officers.