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Finger at Chhattisgarh ‘lapse’

July 13: Yesterday’s Maoist attacks that killed 36 policemen, including a district police chief, in Chhattisgarh had been in the making for at least three months, officials said in Raipur today.

“The rebels didn’t attack the police parties (earlier) but closely watched their movements, strength, configuration and routes for the past three months,” said a senior police officer, referring to the ambush in Rajnandgaon.

SP Vinod Kumar Choubey, the first IPS officer in the state to die fighting the rebels, had been moving around the forested area to develop his intelligence network and get informers.

But as the planning behind the ambush came to the fore, so did possible security lapses that may have made the policemen sitting ducks.

The officials said the force led by Choubey had probably moved in without cross-checking information that over 1,000 rebels were moving in the area. It later emerged that this had been circulated by the guerrillas themselves to lure the cops into their trap.

In Delhi, the Centre appeared peeved at the violation of standard operating procedures by Chhattisgarh police. Home minister P. Chidambaram refused to respond to queries on the attack. “Have you spoken to the chief minister of Chhattisgarh? Everything is happening there, you should speak to the chief minister.”

Officially, the home ministry couched the alleged violation of procedures in praise for the SP. “Many say the superintendent of police should not have gone. But I think it was a heroic act,” said a senior official.

Policemen have been known to travel by vehicles, although the procedures clearly say they should trek to avoid explosive devices. Ministry officials felt Choubey shouldn’t have gone in a convoy and without proper planning.

Spats between the Centre and states on dealing with rebels aren’t new.

While the bone of contention in BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh is the violation of procedures, the main grouse against the Left government in Bengal has been that it neglected the rising influence of Maoists in Lalgarh even after the rebels’ assassination bid on chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in November last year.

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