Maharashtra saw its worst attack on police forces in nearly a decade on Wednesday, after a device planted by suspected Maoists blew up a police vehicle, killing 15 security personnel and a driver in the state’s Gadchiroli district. Reports suggested that the explosion was followed by a gunfight between suspected Maoists and police.
The police vehicle was at Lendhari nallah in the Kurkheda area of Gadchiroli when the blast took place, according to reports . The security personnel who died were members of the police’s Quick Response Team.
According to PTI, the team was on its way to inspect a site where suspected Maoists had torched at least 25 vehicles belonging to a road construction company at around 3.30 am.
According to ANI, the Maharashtra Director General of Police Subodh Jaiswal refused to admit that the explosion was the result of an “intelligence failure,” and instead said that “we are prepared to give a befitting reply to this attack. Operations are going on in the area to ensure that no further casualties take place.”
The explosion comes just a year after a major confrontation in which the police claimed to have gunned down 40 Maoists in the same district, and struck a significant blow against the leadership of the left-wing extremist organisation.
However, even at the time ,there were questions raised about the attack as locals and activists contended that at least some of those killed were not members of Maoist groups but ordinary villagers.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, of the Bharatiya Janata Party, tweeted a condolence message to the families of the dead.
The attack comes amid a general decline in casualties of both civiliains and security forces over the last decade and a spurt in the killings of Maoists in the last five years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The attacks come in the middle of an election season in which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has made national security the focus of its campaign. The incident prompted immediate responses from Opposition leaders.
Randeep Singh Surjewala of the Congress said that 390 jawans had been killed by Maoists over the past five years, exposing the Modi government’s “hollow claims...of securing India”.
Ahmed Patel of the Congress said that the attacks were a “wake up call”.