New Delhi, April 7: Security forces overran a cluster of villages in Chhattisgarh’s Abujhmaad, so far considered an impregnable Maoist redoubt, in a series of closely guarded operations last month, a rebel leader has claimed.
The incursions into the forest area — located at a strategic point where the borders of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh converge — appear to have jolted the Maoists. “(Around) 20 to 25 villages in Maad (part of Abujhmaad) were crushed under the iron heels of the government armed forces,” Gudsa Usendi, the spokesperson for the Dandakaranya zonal committee of the CPI (Maoist), said in a release dated March 30.
Over 3,000 troops were deployed for “Operation Vijay and Operation Haka” between March 11 and 15, Usendi said, adding that the personnel were drawn from the CRPF’s elite CoBRA squad, and Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh police.
Neither the CRPF nor the state police confirmed the operations. But official sources spoke of having made “inroads” in some of the villages.
This is possibly the first time in years that any government arm has managed to reach the area, which falls under the “liberated zone” of the Maoists. The pocket is near Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur, where 75 CRPF troopers were killed in April 2010 in one of the largest casualties suffered by the force in a single rebel attack.
CRPF sources saw last month’s operations as a rebound from that bloodletting and expressed confidence the offensive would continue.
But Usendi alleged “brutalities”, saying the operations were aimed at terrorising people and driving them away from the area. “In fact, preparations are on to hand over this entire area to the army,” he said.
The army has stationed a training brigade in Narayanpur, making an entry of sorts into the Maoist minefield, but the squad does not undertake operations against the Maoists. The rebels are, however, not convinced about the stated objective. “The army deployed in the name of ‘training’ must be pulled back,” said Usendi.
The allegations about “brutalities” — Usendi said farms, schools and houses were “attacked” by the forces — came with a veiled admission that the forces had come better prepared.
“They (the forces) attacked several villages simultaneously, walking up to 40-50km along jungle paths. They (had) equipped themselves with modern gadgets like GPS systems and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and brought along SPOs (special police officers) and informers,” Usendi said. The Telegraph had reported in December last year how the CRPF used UAVs for reconnaissance in Maoist hotbeds.
The joint forces apparently entered the area from Maharashtra and “attacked” some villages on March 14 and 15. To facilitate their entry, teams of Chhattisgarh police from Bijapur had moved in and “dominated nearly 10 to 12 villages” from March 11, the rebel leader said.
“CRPF DG K. Vijay Kumar, Chhattisgarh DGP Anil Navani, (and) Maharashtra DG (K.) Subrahmanyam prepared the blueprint for this entire operation,” Usendi said.
He added that local bosses of the CRPF and Chhattisgarh police supervised the offensive. Narayanpur police chief Mayank Srivastava and his Bijapur counterpart Narayan Rajendradas took part in the operations.
“The operation was plotted from the western part of Maad, adjacent to Maharashtra, from the southern part of Maad adjacent to Bijapur district, i.e., from across the Indravati river and from Narayanpur district headquarters situated in the northeast direction,” said Usendi. The statement throws light on the rebels’ information network.