The government on Tuesday reacted with shock and outrage at the brutal killing of 75 paramilitary troopers by Maoists in the dense forests of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh with Home Minister P Chidambaram admitting that "something has gone very wrong".
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke with Chidambaram and called for an immediate meeting of the National Security Council to take stock of what he once called the country's "biggest internal security challenge".
"Something has gone very wrong," a sombre Chidambaram told reporters outside his North Block office.
"They seem to have walked into a trap set by the Naxalites (Maoists). Casualties are very high. I am deeply shocked."
"But this shows the savage nature of the CPI-Maoist, the brutality and savagery they are capable of," he said.
Home Secretary GK Pillai told reporters that "the government's resolve has been further strengthened and in the coming days and months much firmer action will be taken to tackle the Maoist menace".
In what appeared to be a meticulously planned operation, hundreds of Maoists - one report put the number at about 700 - ambushed, shelled and fired at the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel as they entered a hilly stretch of forest where the rebels have held sway for decades, running a de facto state.
It was the worst ever massacre by Maoists. The incident took place about 450 km south of Chhattisgarh capital Raipur.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power in Chhattisgarh, called for an "all-out offensive" against the Maoists and said the government should embark on a "fight to finish" against the extremists. BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the party will support the government in its anti-Maoist battle.
The government had launched an offensive called "Operation Green Hunt" against the Maoist militia in the hinterland of several states in east and central India where they have dug in and even control large tracts of territory inhabited by poor tribals that is beyond the pale of the administration.
Dantewada is considered a stronghold of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist, which is led by a bunch of ideologically driven ultra leftwing rebels with the avowed aim of overthrowing the state.
In March 2007, the rebels had stormed an isolated police post in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district and killed 55 policemen.
The Maoist insurgency is spread across contiguous forests of about 10 states but their main stronghold is in the iron ore-rich Bastar region in Chhattisgarh that is home to tribespersons whose poverty they exploit to swell their ranks. Official estimates have put their numbers at between 10,000 to 15,000.