Chhattisgarh Naxal attack: Reports blame 'faulty intel'; officials dismiss claims
Several media reports on Monday cited "faulty intelligence reports" as the reason for the death of 22 security personnel in Naxal-hit Chhattisgarh. The security forces had launched an anti-insurgency operation after being "falsely" tipped-off about the presence of two top Maoist leaders in the Jagargunda-Jonaguda-Tarrem belt. Reports now say this intel was a trap, even as officials denied any intelligence or operational failure.
Personnel from the CRPF, its elite unit CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), the District Reserve Guard, and the Special Task Force were involved in the operation that had been planned for weeks. Roughly 2,000 personnel from six camps were mobilized after receiving intel on the whereabouts of People's Liberation Guerrilla Army's (PLGA) Battalion No. 1 Area Commander Madvi Hidma, and his associate Sujatha.
Around Saturday noon, a 450-strong contingent from Tarrem was ambushed by some 400 Naxals near Jonaguda. Reportedly, the contingent had not met any resistance and was returning when they were surrounded by Naxals from three sides. A four-hour-long gun battle followed where up to 22 security personnel were killed and over 30 sustained injuries. Naxals reportedly chased them, killing and maiming several.
CRPF Director General Kuldiep Singh told The Indian Express, "We suspect that 25-30 of them (Naxals) are injured and about one-third of them have died." Reportedly, the Naxals used rocket launchers, hand grenades, and other sophisticated weapons.
Following the operation, former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh accused the government of being insensitive as state leaders were busy campaigning for elections in Assam. Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "If there was no intelligence failure then a 1:1 death ratio means it was a poorly designed and incompetently executed operation. Our jawans are not cannon fodder to be martyred at will."
However, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and CRPF DG Kuldiep Singh denied any intelligence failure. Singh had earlier acknowledged that the forces were "surprised and ambushed." TIE quoted him as saying on Monday, "If it was a bait, more security personnel would have died. The Maoists would have set up an ambush at a place where we would have suffered maximum damage."
Explaining the heavy fatalities, Singh added, "We were moving through an area that is under their control, and as such, they do have a tactical advantage there. They started firing at us with light machine guns when we were returning following our operation."
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah cut short his election campaign in Assam. He has promised to deliver a "befitting reply" to the Naxals. Shah and CM Baghel visited Jagdalpur earlier in the day to pay their respects to the martyred. Baghel said anti-insurgency operations would continue in the state. Shah said operations would be intensified adding, "We will win it in the end."