10 Maoists shot dead by security forces in Bijapur | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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10 Maoists shot dead by security forces in Bijapur

By, Raipur
Apr 03, 2024 05:46 AM IST

Ten Maoists killed in Bijapur gunbattle, total insurgent deaths in 2024 at 47, up from 22 in 2023. Forces recovered weapons, ongoing search for identities.

Ten Maoists were killed in a fierce gunbattle with security forces of both the CRPF and the Chhattisgarh Police in Bijapur district on Tuesday morning, taking the number of insurgents killed thus far this year to 47, up from 22 in all of 2023, and indicting a significant surge in aggression — from both state forces and the Maoists.

Two CRPF personnel were hurt in the encounter. (ANI)
Two CRPF personnel were hurt in the encounter. (ANI)

This is the second significant encounter in the district in a week after six Maoists were killed on March 27.

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Senior police officers said search and sanitisation operations at the encounter spot continued late into the night; while none of the dead rebels have thus far been identified, that process will start once security personnel are safely back in their camps. Two CRPF personnel were hurt. One, Rajendra Kumar, was injured in an IED blast as security forces returned and another, Sandeep Kumar, sustained a bullet injury.

The deaths are the biggest blow for the Maoists in Chhattisgarh after July 2019 when seven insurgents were killed in an operation near the Odisha border in Bastar district’s Nagarnar area. Government records also show that cadre of the banned CPI (Maoist) have killed 19 civilians since January 2024, with 42 civilians killed in the 12 months of 2023.

Senior police officers said that the encounter began at 6am on the forests of Kendra and Karcholi, 45 kilometres from the Bijapur district headquarters, and 10 kilometres from the block headquarters of Gangaloor — even a few years ago considered a citadel of the Maoists.

Officers said that they received intelligence of a gathering of Maoist cadre on Monday, and in the cover of the darkness, personnel from multiple agencies — the Chhattisgarh Police’s District Reserve Guard and Special Task Force, the Central Reserve Police Force and its elite guerilla unit Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA) were deployed from the Gangaloor, Cherpal, Basaguda, Palnar, Pusnar and Mudvendi camps in the district.

“Ten bodies of Maoists have been recovered. Search operations are still underway, and we will know more about their identities tomorrow. Prima facie, however, it seems that they are members of the PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerilla Army) company number 2,” said Sunderaj P, Inspector General of Police (Bastar) range.

The IG confirmed that one light machine gun (LMG), one .303 rifle, one 12 bore gun, a large number of under barrel grenade launchers and other arms and ammunition have already been recovered from the spot.

Officials aware of the matter said that there were intermittent exchanges of fire between security forces and Maoists that continued till 5pm.

“The information we had was of a congregation of Maoists, including influential Maoist commander Papa Rao, in the forests between Kendra and Karcholi. The firing began at 6am but then spread to different parts because the Maoists fanned out. After an initial burst of fire, there was another exchange around noon. The last round of firing kept taking place at intervals between 2 and 5pm. We think there could be more Maoist casualties. We have recovered a large cache of medicines where the bodies were found and we believe they were a group of at least 100 cadre present,” the official said.

Chhattisgarh deputy chief minister Vijay Sharma, who is in charge of the home department, confirmed the encounter and said that the recovery of a light machine gun was “worrying”. “For them to have a weapon like an LMG is a matter of concern. We need to find out how they are getting them, where it is coming from, and what they want to achieve.”

Senior officials based in Bastar and part of the security apparatus have said that the new aggression by integrated teams of the forces have been aided by an infrastructural push that has seen the creation of 17 new forward camps since December 2023. Camps do several things — they establish a security presence in hostile areas, help bring back a sense of civilian normalcy, but crucially, cut down the time needed to operate on intelligence inputs, and catch Maoists more unaware than before. “For several years, without these camps, we would come under fire on the way from Maoists who would either lay IEDs or prepare an ambush. This is how we lost personnel. But for the past few months, the focus has been to establish new camps in forward areas,” a senior officer said.

Officers also believe that the number of Maoists killed thus far this year is higher than 47, which is only the number of bodies that they have recovered thus far. “Even in this encounter, at some point we retreated to ensure we lost no men. There could be more Maoist deaths, but they take away their bodies,” a Bijapur based police officer said.

But the aggression on the ground has also had repercussions — both in terms of Maoists killing people they believe are informers, or attacking police personnel that they can isolate. In February, a small team of Maoists attacked a Chhattisgarh Armed Police Force jawan with sharp weapons in Bijapur town, the district headquarters that has itself seen little aggression over the past decade. The Maoists have also carried out hits on political targets— three of the 19 civilians killed were local leaders of the BJP.

The advances by the security forces have also brought with them allegations of fake encounters, all of which the police have dismissed as part of an established Maoist policy of obfuscation. Family members of three people killed in February in Kanker have alleged that they were not Maoists at all, and the CPI(Maoist) alleged in a press note that an encounter in Bijapur the same month where four Maoists were killed was “fake”. Another press release earlier this week did not deny that the six Maoists killed in Bijapur on March 27 were cadre, but said there was no exchange of fire and they were captured and killed. The police however have categorically denied all these claims.

Senior BJP leaders said that these “successes” were the result of a concerted “anti-naxal operations” in core areas that the Congress avoided in their five years in power between December 2018 and 2023. “This shows that the forces are now moving freely in once core areas and the Maoists are rattled. I congratulate the police force for the success and more strategic operations will follow,” said Sachidanand Upasane, senior BJP leader and spokesperson.

RP Singh, senior Congress spokesperson claimed that the BJP is only reaping the benefits of a foundation laid down by the Congress during its tenure in government. “During the BJP rule before 2018, Maoist violence was at its peak. In 2022, the government even congratulated the state government for reducing Maoist violence. Things like this take a concerted long-term approach and they are only following the Congress’s policy,” he said.

Experts believe that the sheer regularity of these security operations that are attacking Maoists in their core bastions will have an adverse effect on their morale, but crucially, their recruitment and supply chains. “This continuous movement in these areas shows that no base is safe for the Maoists. This onslaught will shake confidence, affect their ability to move cadre and supplies, and ultimately erode people’s support. These are good signs,” said RK Vij, former special director general, Chhattisgarh police.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    State Correspondent for Chhattisgarh. Reports Maoism, Politics, Mining and important developments from the state. Covered all sorts of extremism in Central India. Reported from Madhya Pradesh for eight years.

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