The anti-Maoist operation in Chhattisgarh was “poorly designed and incompetently executed”, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Monday, two days after 22 security personnel died in one of the bloodiest attacks by the insurgency group.
Gandhi’s allegations came after Central Reserve Police Force Director General Kuldeep Singh denied that Saturday’s attack was a result of an intelligence or operational failure. “If there was no intelligence failure then a 1:1 death ratio means it was a poorly designed and incompetently executed operation,” the Congress leader wrote on Twitter. “Our Jawans are not cannon fodder to be martyred at will.”
Hours later, Gandhi posted another tweet, raising doubts about the security provided to the personnel who participated in the encounter. “No India jawan should face any enemy without body armour in the 21st century,” he wrote. “It needs to be made available to every soldier.”
The fighting erupted on Saturday when security forces, acting on intelligence, raided a Maoist hideout in Bijapur district, but were ambushed by the Naxalites. Officials said they were attacked by around 400 Maoists who “pounced on them with daggers”, killing and maiming many. Besides the 22 killed, 31 more were wounded. One security force member was still missing.
The sequence of events that day – and the fact that the rebel fighters had complete knowledge about the operation – has raised questions about possible intelligence failure, with officials saying there were “clear signs that the Maoists know we are listening to their code”.
Central Reserve Police Force Director General Singh, however, denied this. “If it was a bait, more security personnel would have died,” Singh told The Indian Express.
“And if there was some operational failure, so many Maoists would not have been killed,” he also told ANI on Sunday. So far, only one body of a woman Maoist commander was recovered from the site of the gunfight, according to officials.
‘Morale of security personnel still high’
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the government was determined to take the “ongoing fight against the unrest created by naxals to its logical conclusion”, PTI reported.
The minister, who was on a visit to Chhattisgarh, made the comment after paying tributes to the 22 security personnel who were killed in the gunfight. Besides Shah, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and other dignitaries also laid wreaths on the coffins.
Later on Monday, Shah will chair a meeting at the Police Coordination Centre in Jagdalpur to review the security situation arising out of Saturday’s incident, and also meet some of the injured security personnel in hospitals, an official told PTI. The meeting will be attended by Baghel, senior officials of the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force, he said.
Shah will then leave for the Basaguda camp of the CRPF in Bijapur, where he will spend some time with the CRPF and state police personnel stationed there.
Shah told reporters that the morale of the security personnel “is still intact” and that their fight against insurgency will continue.
Baghel had made similar assertions on Sunday. Talking to reporters at the Raipur airport after returning from Assam, Baghel said: “Maoists are fighting their last battle now and they will be eliminated very soon.”
He added that the work of setting up camps of security forces in the Naxal stronghold areas in the state will be expedited. “Morale of our security forces is high and they are giving a strong fight to Naxals in their den,” the chief minister said, according to PTI.
Meanwhile, former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh criticised Baghel for campaigning in Assam in spite of the incident. “Rome is burning and Nero is playing the flute,” Singh said, according to ANI.