Once bitten, still not shy. This seems to be the principle of Gadchiroli police.
The killing of 16 policemen on Thursday in an ambush by Maoists in Gadchiroli exposed how it has still not learnt its lessons even after 15 policemen were killed more than three months ago in the same area and in a similar manner.
In both the attacks, Maoists had used police informers to feed information about their movement and then ambushed the investigating police party eliminating all the members.
On February 1, an armed police party was ambushed at Markegaon, 27 km from Tabitola — site of Thursday’s attack. The 15-member team was going to investigate a case of arson after a local informer provided the tip off.
“They have not only succeeded in penetrating the force but also our information and communication network,” said a police officer, who is part of the post-attack investigation but not authorised to talk to media.
According to investigations, Police Inspector Ashok Iyer — described by his colleagues as “dare devil who always reared for good information” — was called by one of his informers on Thursday morning.
“He came to the police station in the afternoon and ordered a team be prepared to raid a Naxal hideout,” said a policeman during the investigations to a senior officer. “He had information about a top woman Naxal who we suspected was involved in the February attack.”
The team left Dhanora in two jeeps and when they neared Tabitola, Maoists attacked.
“They struck with precision and with the knowledge of the police party’s strength and preparedness,” said the officer. “They first targeted the vehicles. There was no way they (policemen) could have escaped.”