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Readying for another battle

After the April 6 Dantewada massacre, there’s been at least one noticeable change in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans stationed in the jungles of Chintalnar, fighting a shadowy enemy: they talk on their mobile phones more often.

india Updated: May 04, 2010 23:59 IST
Ejaz Kaisar

After the April 6 Dantewada massacre, there’s been at least one noticeable change in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans stationed in the jungles of Chintalnar, fighting a shadowy enemy: they talk on their mobile phones more often.

“After the Tadmetla ambush everyone speaks to their relatives at least twice a day,” a CRPF man said.

A month after Maoists killed 76 security personnel in Tadmetla , 75 of them from the CRPF, in an early morning ambush, sending shockwaves across the country, the CRPF men on Ground Zero are still recovering from the shock.

“The Americans took months to overcome the shock of the 9/11 attacks,” a CRPF officer told Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity. “In the war zone (in Dantewada), soldiers too are human and have emotions.”

The men posted here often debate who was responsible for the security lapse — the Chhattisgarh police or the CRPF.

The Chintalnar camp, where many of the slain CRPF men were based, received immediate reinforcements, with the CRPF deploying three more companies (about 300 men) in the area within a few days of the attack.

“We are planning to shift the entire 62 battalion out of the Dantewada jungles and replace it with a new one,” a senior CRPF officer in Raipur told HT.

While the Rammohan Committee — which has submitted its inquiry report on the Dantewada massacre to Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram — is likely to throw light on what went wrong on April 6, the CRPF top brass have admitted to faults at both at the planning and execution levels.

“We made a mistake,” said the Centre’s anti-Maoist taskforce head and CRPF’s special director general Vijay Raman. “But we aren’t taking it lying down. The entire country will soon see the results.”

While the state government has been demanding more central forces for Maoist-dominated areas, both the state police and the CRPF have realised the importance of optimising existing resources.

Senior CRPF officers led by director general Raman Srivastava and Chhattisgarh DGP Vishwa Ranjan held a meeting in state capital Raipur last week to work out modalities for coordinated operations and improving intelligence gathering and dissemination.

For the security forces, the rebels are not ‘misguided young men’ as the Maoists are some times described. “Those who train their guns on us are enemies,” an officer said.

“They are killers and a threat to the nation,” another added.

Senior CRPF officers said they were in constant touch with various camps in the area — including Dornapal, Kanker Lanka, Chintagufa and Chintalnar — and sought routine feedback on the security situation. At Chintalnar, barely 2.5 km from the Tadmetla ambush site, CRPF personnel take a close look at every stranger. Only a rigorous identify proof allows people to cross the wooden barrier erected near every base camp.

Morale dips at times.
“Seniors are not ready to risk decisions for which they may be questioned or face inquiry if things go wrong again,” a young CRPF officer said.

But, “some big success on the operational front” would help boost morale, another officer added.

CRPF Assistant Commandant Sawant Yadav in Kanker Lanka camp is gearing up for such success. “We know guerrilla warfare is tougher than traditional war and we’re prepared to face any challenge.” But explaining that to his mother on phone is difficult. “She gets suspicious when I tell her there’s no reason to worry,” he said.

(Inputs from Manish Tiwari in Delhi)