On record, Maoist guerrillas ambushed them. But the 12 Chhattisgarh policemen who died in Friday’s rebel attack might have paid for a five-day power cut that prevented them from charging their radio batteries.
Policemen patrolling rebel zones in Bhadrakali area of the state’s Bijapur district have been moving about with dead wireless sets because of a power failure since Monday night. Consequently, they have neither been able to communicate among themselves nor with their headquarters.
The rebels are learnt to have taken advantage of the ‘link failure’ and ambushed two police patrols almost simultaneously near Metracheru, 400 km south of state capital Raipur. The first attack was thwarted, but 10 policemen died in the second attack 3 km from Bhadrakali.
Two more succumbed to their injuries on Saturday morning, taking the toll to 12.
“Police stations and our men in the field are finding it hard to keep in touch with each other because of a prolonged power cut for the last five-six days,” said a Bhadrakali-based policeman. “We came to know about the ambush and the casualties only after some policemen escaped from the ambush site and reached Bhadrakali police station.”
“The area frequently sees long power cuts, which leads to immense problem in communication,” Bijapur superintendent of police Rajendra Narayan Das told HT. “But this is just one of the many problems faced by the forces deployed in the remote and far-flung terrain.”
The other factors include inability to operate helicopters due to inclement weather. “The injured could not be airlifted from Bhadrakali to Jagdalpur hospital until 11 am today (Saturday),” said Das.
The Opposition Congress party, meanwhile, blamed the Raman Singh government for not strengthening the intelligence set-up. “The attack once again showed the Maoists had better intelligence network that provides easy information about the movement of the police force,” said former chief minister Ajit Jogi.