In the afternoon of Wednesday in south Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district, more than 350 kilometres from the state capital Raipur, Maoists detonated an IED, killing ten District Reserve Guard (DRG) jawans returning in a van from a security operation, along with their driver.
This is the largest assault by Maoists on the state’s security forces in the previous two years; in 2021, an ambush at the boundary of Sukma and Bijapur districts resulted in the deaths of 22 security officers.
The District Reserve Guard (DRG), a state unit entrusted with conducting anti-Maoist operations, supplied the killed security personnel.
Sundarraj P, the Bastar Range Inspector General of Police, stated after the incident that the Deputy Inspector General had carried out an operation after receiving intelligence about the presence of Maoists in the region. The squad was attacked by the Maoists as they were travelling back to the Dantewada headquarters. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and DRG have sent reinforcements to the area. Senior officers are present, and search efforts are in progress. The procedure to remove the dead personnel’s bodies is under progress.
According to sources, 200 security officers left the Dantewada district administrative office on Tuesday night after learning of the presence of Maoists in the region’s Darbha division.
Two alleged Maoists sustained gunshot wounds after an exchange of fire on Wednesday morning between the patrolling team and Maoists at Nahadi hamlet, around 7 kilometres from Aranpur. The two had been apprehended and were being transported back to the district office in a convoy that included the unfortunate car.Senior state police personnel reported that the attack employed 40–50 kg of explosives. On the surface, it appears like the bombs were hidden five to six feet beneath the road. It appears that a command IED was deployed, which means a Maoist cadre was watching the road from a distance and detonated the device as the car neared.
Although authorities claimed that the security men had driven a private vehicle rather than a police vehicle to avoid drawing the notice of Maoists, the attackers were nevertheless able to recognise the vehicle.
Joga Sothi, Munnaram Kadti, Santosh Tamo, Dulgo Mandavi, Lakhmu Markam, Joga Kawasi, Hariram Mandavi, Rajuram Kartam, Jairam Podiyam, and Jagdish Kawasi have been named as the deceased jawans. Dhaniram Yadav has been named as the driver of the vehicle. The explosion completely damaged the car they were riding in.
Five of the 10 jawans who died were surrendered Maoists who joined the state force after laying down their weapons. They held the ranks of constable and head constable.
The Chhattisgarh police created the DRG in 2008 as a specialised unit to conduct anti-Maoist operations throughout the state. It has successfully carried out a number of anti-Maoist operations in the Bastar region by mostly enlisting indigenous tribal people.
A Chhattisgarh police officer remarked, “It is a measure of their activity that in all recent attacks, the Maoists have specifically targeted the DRG personnel.”
A Central intelligence officer claimed that according to protocol, security personnel could only advance in an operation after receiving precise intelligence inputs and sanitising the route. In order to ensure that the convoy is not in danger, security services may enlist the assistance of the Road Opening Party (ROP).
“After learning of the Maoist presence in Aranpur, the DRG left their headquarters. According to preliminary investigation, it appears conventional operating protocols were not followed, the officer stated, adding that Maoists were watching their vehicle movement.
Bhupesh Baghel, the chief minister of Chhattisgarh, told reporters that “this fight is in its final stages” and that “Naxals won’t be spared.”
Baghel noted that the 11 men “had arrived for anti-Naxal operation on the information of the presence of Maoist cadre under Aranpur police station area of Dantewada” in a tweet. He cancelled his campaigning trip to Karnataka and will now be in Dantewada on Thursday.
Amit Shah, the union home minister, called with Baghel and assessed the situation, promising the chief executive that the federal government will provide the state administration with all necessary assistance. He called the assault “cowardly” in his description.
The attack on the Chhattisgarh police in Dantewada is strongly condemned, the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, stated in a tweet. I honour the brave personnel who lost their lives in the attack. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten. My sympathies to the families of the deceased.
“The fight against Naxalism in Chhattisgarh is in its last phase. Our government will win in it,” the president of the Congress wrote in a tweet.
The attack’s timing is consistent with the Maoists’ yearly strategy; between February and June, the CPI (Maoist) undertakes a Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC), in which the military wing’s primary objective is to cause security forces losses.
The time was picked because conducting offensive operations in jungles becomes challenging once the rain ends in July.
Almost all significant Maoist assaults on law enforcement have taken place during the TCOC, notably the 2010 Chintalnar massacre that claimed the lives of 76 members of the CRPF.
The TCOC this year was also defined by an increase in IED attacks. Sources claim that Maoists carried out 34 IED assaults in Bastar up to April 15 of this year. The same number was 28 for 2022 and 21 for 2021.