Maoists attacked Central Reserve Police Force troops in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on Monday, killing at least 25 jawans and leaving six others injured. The attack, the most lethal of its kind in five years, took place while the troops were at a road-opening ceremony in the Burkapal-Chintagufa area of the Bastar region, a Maoist stronghold.
Initial reports suggested that as many as 300 Naxalites opened fire on a group of 90 jawans who were at the ceremony. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh rushed back to the state from Delhi, while Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir was despatched to take stock of the situation.
The attack comes barely a month after another incident in Sukma district. That attack, in Bhejji, saw locally-made mortars, tiffin bombs, and arrows with explosives used to kill 12 CRPF personnel. As with Monday’s attack, the Bhejji encounter also was aimed at security forces who were guarding road construction activities.
Monday’s attack in Sukma, in fact, is the highest casualty count for an incident involving security forces in Chhattisgarh since 2013. That year, 25 leaders from the Congress party, including former state minister Mahendra Karma, was killed in a single incident.
The 25 deaths take the 2017 casualty count for security forces killed in Maoist attacks to 48. In under five months in 2017, there have already been more fatalities for the year than the average for security forces in Chhattisgarh over the previous five years, which came to just under 47.
This may not necessarily negate the analysis by some that the Maoist insurgency in the state is staring at the end of the road, but it does suggest that the Naxalites have chosen to take their fight to the CRPF forces in a much bigger way this year. Indeed, the attack in March, which led to 12 deaths prompted Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to insist that this was actually a response to the success of the government in tackling the Maoists.
“The Left Wing extremist groups are restless because of the unprecedented success of the forces against them,” he said in a statement to the Lok Sabha after the March attack. “In 2016, forces have achieved success against the Left Wing Extremists in many states, specially in Chhattisgarh. The Left Wing extremist incidents in Chhattisgarh dropped from 466 in 2015 to 395 in 2016... To uplift the falling morale of their cadres, they execute attacks like this one. I am confident our brave soldiers will fight them and end Left Wing Extremism soon.”