Rattled by the audacious naxalite attack that killed 15 policemen, the Centre has summoned police chiefs of four naxal-affected states including Maharashtra this week to give “final shape” to a coordinated action-plan against naxalites.
The high-level meeting to finalise the counter-offensive across four states – Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh – comes in the backdrop of Sunday’s well-planned attack in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, about a thousand kilometres northeast of the state capital, Mumbai.
The meeting in Delhi would give a final shape to the offensive against the naxalites, a senior Maharashtra police officer, who asked not to be named, told HT.
Union home secretary Madhukar Gupta would chair the meeting that is also expected to discuss the Gadchiroli attack.
Fifteen policemen who had gone to investigate reports of a truck being burnt by naxalites were ambushed by the naxals.
“The policemen were well-armed but heavily outnumbered. There were 15 policemen, fighting a team made up by three naxal squads…150 naxalites. But they fought bravely,” the police officer said.
The clash, however, did not continue for very long. “After putting up a stiff resistance for nearly 90 minutes, the policemen ran out of ammunition and were killed,” the Maharashtra police officer said.
The naxals took away their empty weapons, eight AK 47 assault rifles, four Self-Loading Rifles, two Insas rifles, two pistols and one two-inch mortar.
A Jharkhand police officer said the ploy to commit a minor crime in the heavily forested areas to booby trap the police wasn’t new.
“We have learnt from our experiences and sensitised the policemen to take adequate precautions in naxal-infested areas,” said DK Pandey, Inspector General of Police, Jharkhand, said.
A home ministry official in Delhi said the policemen did appear to have taken some procedures. For one, the policemen waited for two days and tried to crosscheck the information before venturing into the thick jungles.
But the naxalites had probably seen through the police strategy in other incidents and stayed put, waiting for two days in the area for the police team to arrive.
Sources said the naxalites did not flee after killing the 15 policemen but also tried to trap another team of police personnel who were on their way as reinforcements.
“The naxalites engaged the second team too but the policemen saw through the ploy and did not move in any deeper,” an official involved in the exercise to analyse the attack said.