‘Over 20 security personnel die in U-shaped Maoist ambush’: Chhattisgarh Police
On Saturday, a team of about 450 security personnel reached Jeera gaon, Jonaguda and Tekulgudam villages. They were ambushed at around noon.
Many security personnel got trapped while at least 23 lost their lives in what the police described as a U-shaped Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district on Saturday. Maoists fired indiscriminately from two hilltops, police said.
“The security personnel were caught unaware and were at a disadvantageous position as rebels kept firing from the top of the hills on two sides. It was a U-type ambush,” said a police officer. “Despite that, they valiantly fought back and the encounter continued for more than three hours till late Saturday evening,” the officer added.
Police officials familiar with the development said that the entire Maoist operation was led by the commander of battalion number-1, Madvi Hidma, who held training for the encounter for the past two weeks and was waiting for security personnel to enter the Terrem jungles.
The officials did not rule out the possibility of a trap laid by Hidma by providing false intelligence input to security forces about his presence in the jungles. The security personnel were looking for Hidma, a top Maoist commander, for years. There was intelligence input that Hidma was present in the area for the past 17 days, a police officer said.
On Friday, at about 11 pm, around 1,700 security personnel from different camps in Bijapur and Sukma districts started one of the biggest combing operations to nab Hidma.
On Saturday, a team of about 450 security personnel reached Jeera gaon, Jonaguda and Tekulgudam villages. They were ambushed around noon, police officials said.
Sources familiar with the encounter said the force got trapped in their ‘killing area’ in the three villages. The villages where the encounter took place were vacated by the Maoists.
“Tactically, the Maoists targeted the commanders of the security forces,” said an intelligence officer. The security forces tried to hide in the empty huts but were subsequently killed.
Another police officer said the apparent reason for the Maoist attack was the Chhattisgarh Police’s plan to open a security camp in Silger village just ahead of Terrem. The region is considered a core area of Maoists. The camp would have cut a crucial Maoist corridor connecting Bijapur to Sukma and the rebels would have lost control over the region.
“Hidma called over 300 armed cadres from different parts of Bastar who gathered close to the encounter spot,” said a police officer, adding that most of them were armed with automatic rifles.
The officer said the presence of so many Maoists in the area was to lure the security forces inside the forest. “Hidma planned to lure security forces but for 15 days the security forces did not reach the area. He was getting desperate,” the officer said.
Learning about his desperation, the police officer said, the Chhattisgarh Police decided to take Hidma head-on as elimination of the best Maoist battalion would have been a major setback to the rebels in the bastion.
“We had information about their strength but somewhere there was a lack of strategic planning. We also underestimated the efficiency of the Maoists. It seems that they trained extensively in the terrains,” a senior Chhattisgarh police officer said, requesting anonymity.
The officer said that the encounter would force the security personnel to have a strategy re-think as the forces cannot provide Maoists with any more strategic advantage in the encounters.
What could have averted the damage?
Senior officials of Chhattisgarh Police believe the specialised anti-Maoist security forces (COBRA, DRG, STF) should have been used at a much larger scale for such specific intelligence operations. The striking force didn’t have enough personnel hence the Chhattisgarh Police personnel were outnumbered.
“Ambush sites were not adequately covered by the security forces, which should be the priority,” a senior official said.
“Madvi Hidma led the batallion-1 and was grossly underestimated in the planning of operations by the security forces. The other reason behind high casualty was the field commanders getting targeted by the Maoists. Bullet injuries to CRPF CoBRA and District Reserve Guard (DRG) field commanders led to total disarray in command and control,” said the official, adding that specialized commanders and troops from the DRG and the STF from adjoining districts should have been involved in this important operation.
Who is Madvi Hidma?
A 38-year-old battle-hardened Maoist commander was the mastermind of the ambush on security forces. Hidma reportedly got guerilla warfare training in the Philippines and was said to be the mastermind behind the attack with other Maoists.
Hidma, also known as Hidmalu and Santosh, is also believed to have carried out several attacks in the last decade.
Considered one of the most dreaded Maoist leaders in Bastar, Hidma was born in Purvati village of south Sukma. He has built up a reputation as a ruthless rebel leader who runs a network of dedicated informers across the region.
He belongs to the Muriya tribal community of Bastar region. His village is still out of bounds for the police.
“Bastariya muriya tribals are brutal and aggressive and Hidma has already established himself as a master strategist and successful operational commander. His promotion will further motivate him and his team,” said another police officer.