A woman named Narmada led the deadly Maoist attack that killed 15 policemen in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district on Sunday. Her deputy was also a woman named Taraka alias Vimlaa. That’s what intelligence sources speaking on the customary condition of anonymity told HT on Monday.
<b1>The sources said the attack in the jungles of Markegaon village about 300 km southeast of Nagpur was a joint operation of the North Bastar and Gadchiroli units of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Narmada, a 44-year-old college dropout from Andhra Pradesh, has been leading the Maoists’ Gadchiroli unit since shortly after the death of its last leader, Shivanna, who was killed in a police encounter in Chhattisgarh last year. She is married to Maoist leader Sudhakar alias Kiran who works for the outfit’s publicity wing, say sources.
Her deputy Taraka, a tribal girl from Gadchiroli, is also the wife of a senior Maoist leader, Bhupathi. He is a member of the group’s central committee.
Since she took charge, Narmada has entrusted key posts to women. Most of her local organisational squads, which consist of 10-15 armed Maoists, are headed by women.
The Maharashtra Police have launched a massive search to find the group. More than 2,000 heavily-armed police personnel have been deployed for combing operations in the area, which is 80 km by road from the district headquarter, Gadchiroli town. Seventy policemen have been killed by Maoists in Gadchiroli and Gondia districts of Vidharba since 2002, according to the Anti Naxal Operations unit of Maharashtra Police. Naxalites of the People’s War Group, and later, the CPI(Maoist) have been active in this area since 1980.
Maharashtra Police chief AN Roy denied media reports that the bodies of the policemen who died in the attack had been mutilated. “This is absolutely false,” he said.
Agencies investigating the attack say the Maoists used a police informer to draw the policemen to their deaths. The attackers knew of the movements of the policemen, who were on their way to investigate the burning of a tractor and a road-roller by Maoists, investigators said.