At least 14 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed and about a dozen wounded in an encounter with Maoists near Chintagufa in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on Monday, the biggest loss of lives in anti-Maoist operations after the NDA government assumed charge in May.Security forces were deep inside the forests about 450 km from state capital Raipur, when Maoist gunmen attacked them, using villagers as shields, officials said. The CRPF launched a special operation on November 16 to corner the First Battalion of the CPI (Maoist)’s Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee who have a stronghold in the area.
"Fourteen jawans have died in the ambush," additional director general (anti-Maoist operation) Rajinder Kumar Vij told HT. The dead included two officers.
The death toll is likely to go up with security forces unable to carry out rescue operations in the firing that went on until late evening. “We have to wait till Tuesday morning to take out the injured personnel and the bodies from the remote forested terrain,” Vij added.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh, who will visit Chhattisgarh on Tuesday to assess the situation, condemned the attack, calling it a dastardly act of violence. “It is an act of cowardice,’ he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tweeted about the incident: “Words are not enough to condemn the brutal and inhuman attack by anti-national elements in Sukma, Chhattisgarh.”
Words are not enough to condemn the brutal & inhuman attack by anti-national elements in Sukma, Chhattisgarh.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 1, 2014
I salute the courageous CRPF personnel who have been martyred today. Our thoughts are with the families of those who lost their loved ones.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 1, 2014
Around half a dozen CRPF personnel were wounded in another encounter in the same area on November 21 and insurgents also fired at an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter that had come to carry the wounded.
“When an IAF chopper came to pick the injured, it was also fired upon… This time, when the encounter started in the morning, Maoists used villagers as human shields,” said a senior CRPF officer.
Maoist guerillas, claiming to fight for the rights of tribal communities and landless farmers, often engage in gunfights with government forces in the forested and hilly terrains of central and east India and have a presence in 16 of Chhattisgarh’s 27 districts, including Sukma.
The CRPF is also without a chief after former director general Dilip Trivedi retired on Sunday.
“Why this adhocism when daily operations are on against Maoists?” a counter-insurgency official said, requesting anonymity. “The government could have appointed Trivedi’s successor at least two weeks before his retirement so that he would have known where his men are fighting.”Meanwhile, the security forces in Bastar zone have been put on high alert following the Maoist’s observation of Peoples Liberation of Guerrillas Army (PGLA) week from Tuesday (December 2-8).