India witnessed a deadly Maoist attack in Bajapur area of the central state of Chhattisgarh on Sunday which killed at least 22 soldiers.
The Maoists, also known as Naxals, have waged an armed struggle against government forces for decades. They say they are fighting for the poor who have been left behind economically.
On Saturday, the Teklagudem village found itself at the centre of the raging battle between Maoists and Indian forces as some of the villagers were beaten up by the cops.
The residents told media that when they saw the police personnel approach, they locked themselves in their houses. “Those who didn’t, they got beaten up. After a few hours, we heard the noise of heavy firing and we fled,” said Bhima Korsa, a resident of the village.
A media report quoting a senior police official said that the Naxals were strategically positioned on a hillock in front of Tekulagudem village and around it. When the battle ensued, its residents took shelter in the forest, and then to Poovarti, around 30 minutes from the village on the other side of the hills. Villagers started to trickle back to Tekulagudem on Tuesday, two days after the incident, as some of them feared police retaliation.
According to police officials, joint teams of security forces, comprising over 2,000 personnel, launched an anti-Maoist operation in Bijapur and Sukma districts in the South Bastar forests, considered as a Maoist stronghold, on the night of April 2. And it was during the operation, that the teams were ambushed. The ambush was led by some 400 Maoists who surrounded the troops from three sides in an area devoid of vegetation and rained on them machine gunfire as well as IEDs for several hours.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (CPI-Maoist) has claimed that COBRA commando Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, who went missing after the ambush in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, is in captivity of ultras (Maoists), and asked the state government to appoint interlocutors for his release.
Maoist attacks on Indian forces
This is not the first attack that has taken place this year in Chhattisgarh district. Many such attacks have occurred in the past also. Some of them are being mentioned here.
• On March 23, five District Reserve Guard (DRG) personnel were killed when Maoists blew up a bus carrying the security personnel with an IED in Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh.
• On March 21 last year, 17 security personnel, including 12 from DRG, were killed in a Maoist ambush in Minpa area of Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.
• On April 9, 2019, BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi and four security personnel were killed after Naxals blew up their vehicle with an IED in Dantewada district.
• On February 18, 2018, two Chhattisgarh police personnel were killed and six others injured in a gun-battle with CPI (Maoist) at Bhejji in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.
• On April 24, 2017, as many as 26 CRPF personnel died in a Naxal ambush in Burkapal area of Sukma district.
• In March 2017, 12 CRPF troops were killed in a Maoist attack in Sukma district.
• In November 2016, two CRPF soldiers were injured in a bomb blast triggered by Naxals in the dense forest of Sukma district.
Chhattisgarh has 28 varieties of major minerals, including diamonds and gold, a government website says. It has 16% of India’s coal deposits and large reserves of iron ore and bauxite.
The Maoists operate in mineral-rich territory in the east and south of the country known as the “red corridor,” which has shrunk in recent years because of heavy operations against them. But last week some 400 guerrillas armed with grenades and automatic rifles attacked a police raiding party in the Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh.