It would appear that the 75 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers who were killed mercilessly on Tuesday by Maoists were seized with a death wish as they ventured "blindly" into the Maoist den ignoring all warfare guidelines they were taught.
The bloodbath in Dantewada could have been avoided if the troopers had abided by the 48-point warfare manual they have been instructed to strictly follow during anti-rebel operations in the dense jungles, a counter-terrorism official said Tuesday.
The contingent of 120 paramilitary CRPF that was attacked virtually staged a "dress rehearsal" of the July 12, 2009, incident in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh when the personnel walked into a Maoist booby trap while riding on vehicles - something strictly "disallowed" in the landmine-strewn jungle interiors.
Twenty-nine policemen included an Indian Police Service officer were killed in the attack then, and Tuesday the CRPF men committed the "same blunder" by ignoring the warfare manual rules and lost 75 men.
"I have always stressed that policemen should never ride in vehicles on jungle roads and should always carry de-mining squads and sniffer dogs trained in detecting improvised explosives devices (IEDs) while going on operations," B.K. Ponwar, director of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College (CTJWC) based in Bastar's Chhattisgarh, told IANS in an interview.
The Chhattisgarh government set up the elite warfare college in 2005 to train policemen to fight "a guerilla like a guerilla" and also on "how to survive flash attacks in hilly terrain where the enemy is strategically perched higher up and can see any movement easily".
A senior official at the police headquarters here expressed surprise that the CRPF contingent "blindly" ventured into the forest on vehicles.
"It seems they were desperate to kiss death. It hurts the entire police force when troopers get killed in such a foolish manner. I can't understand why they completely ignored warfare guidelines,'' the officer wondered.
He added: "Policemen are flouting warfare rules over and over again... What was so urgent to ride on vehicles and enter the thick jungle roads planted with landmines all around. It's great neglect of the basic guerrilla warfare rules which they have been briefed about before being posted in red terror land," he said.
A police officer based at Dornapal area of Dantewada district remarked: "Tuesday's bloodbath will dampen the morale of the thousands of police force deployed in Bastar (on anti-Maoist operations).''
On Tuesday, hundreds of Maoists -- one report put the number at over 700 -- bombed and fired at the CRPF personnel as they entered a hilly stretch of forest land in Dantewada, killing 74 men from the 62nd battalion of the CRPF and a state police officer. More than two dozen personnel were injured.
The incident took place about 450 km south of Raipur. Dantewada is considered a stronghold of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says has emerged as the biggest internal security threat.
It was the worst massacre since Maoists stormed an isolated police post in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district in March 2007 and killed 55 policemen.