Chhattisgarh losing the plot in battle against Maoists?

May 13th, 2009 - 10:33 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Sujeet Kumar
Raipur, May 13 (IANS) This month Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh have killed over 30 people, most of them security personnel. Security experts are saying the police are not following “basic points” of insurgency warfare and were thus often reduced to “sitting ducks”.

The latest bout of criticism has come after 12 policemen and the driver of one of their buses were killed Sunday in the state’s Dhamtari district, a new area of operation for the rebels, who had earlier been concentrated further south in the state’s Bastar region.

In Dhamtari, about 150 armed rebels ambushed a 41-strong police team travelling in three vehicles. As the rebels’ landmine blast tossed the vehicles up in the air, the Maoists started spraying bullets at the hapless policemen.

For about 16 hours, the police headquarters here did not have a clear idea of what had happened. Only around noon Monday did the officials say 12 men of their district force and a driver had been killed. Several of the bodies were found disfigured and charred and police are still to match each name to each mutilated body.

“The tenets of jungle warfare must be followed. I keep advising trainees they must follow 48 points and on top of the list is never use vehicles in jungle roads for operation purposes,” Brigadier (retd.) B.K. Ponwar, director of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College (CTJWC), told IANS on phone.

“Vehicles should be used only for carriage of ration, stores and ammunition. But the forces are not following the basic points.”

The CTJWC was set up by the Chhattisgarh government in 2005 in Kanker town of Bastar region, hardly 50 km from the site where guerrillas attacked the police convoy in Dhamtari. The college is meant to train policemen to “take on guerrillas like a guerrilla”.

“As long as warfare points are not followed the policemen will continue to get killed as happened in Dhamtari. I don’t know who ordered forces to go inside a hilly area riding vehicles without the road being cleared of landmines,” Ponwar said.

“I keep insisting in warfare training for the policemen to go into the jungles with multi-directional assault plan but no one is ready to follow these basic things despite knowing 95 percent casualties in Chhattisgarh are linked to landmine blasts.”

Before Sunday’s killings, on May 5, a senior leader of state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was shot dead in Rajnandgaon district and a day after rebels ambushed 11 people included seven policemen in Dantewada district.

On May 7, the insurgents brutally killed Pharasgaon police station in-charge Abdul Wahid Khan in full public view in Narayanpur district. The killing took place within 150 metres of Pharasgaon police station and a camp of the Central Reserve Police Force’s 39th battalion but no one intervened.

The string of attacks forced Chief Minister Raman Singh to chair an emergency meet with top police officers here May 8. After the meeting, Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar announced: “Police will answer bullets with bullets and there will be no peace talk with rebels by the state government”.

The rebels responded within two days with the ambush at Dhamtari, which was carefully planned, with the policemen led into a trap by a tipoff which proved to be fake.

A senior officer at police headquarters here said Tuesday: “We are still not sure which officer took the decision to send a 41-member convoy, most of them constables of the District Force, without a senior officer to lead them. It looks like they were just led into a trap. There was not even any back-up. Other forces reached the spot 16 hours after the ambush, just to collect the disfigured bodies.”

Another senior police officer who has spent years in Bastar told IANS: “We do not seem to have a strategy now. We haven’t had one since April, when (Director General of Police) Vishwaranjan, was forced to go on long leave by the Election Commission.

“As far as I can see, the police force deployed for anti-Maoist operations is now just acting as sitting ducks. There is no coordination at the higher levels. We’re just hoping against hope that we can prevail against Maoists.”

(Sujeet Kumar can be contacted at sujeet.k@ians.in)

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