Troopers walked into death trap

Troopers walked into death trap

Dantewada massacre: Basic counter-terrorism strategy given the go-by

Troopers walked into death trap

Maoists exercise at a temporary base in the Abujh Marh forests, in Chhattisgarh, in this file photo. AP The bloodbath in Dantewada could have been avoided if the troopers had abided by the 48-point warfare manual they have been instructed to strictly follow during anti-rebel operations in the dense jungles, a counter-terrorism official said on Tuesday.

The contingent of 120 paramilitary CRPF that was attacked virtually staged a “dress rehearsal” of the July 12, 2009, incident in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh when the personnel walked into a Maoist booby trap while riding on vehicles - something strictly “disallowed” in the landmine-strewn jungle interiors.

Same blunder

Twenty-nine policemen including an IPS officer were killed in the attack then, and Tuesday the CRPF men committed the “same blunder” by ignoring the manual rules and lost 75 men. “I have always stressed that policemen should never ride in vehicles on jungle roads and should always carry de-mining squads and sniffer dogs trained in detecting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) while going on operations,” B K Ponwar, director of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College (CTJWC) based in Bastar’s Chhattisgarh, said.

The Chhattisgarh government set up the elite warfare college in 2005 to train policemen to fight “a guerilla like a guerilla” and also on “how to survive flash attacks in hilly terrain where the enemy is strategically perched higher up and can see any movement easily”.
A senior official at the police headquarters here expressed surprise that the CRPF contingent “blindly” ventured into the forest on vehicles. 

“It seems they were desperate to kiss death. It hurts the entire police force when troopers get killed in such a foolish manner. I can’t understand why they completely ignored warfare guidelines,’’ the officer wondered.

He added: “Policemen are flouting warfare rules over and over again... What was so urgent to ride on vehicles and enter the thick jungle roads planted with landmines all around. It’s great neglect of the basic guerrilla warfare rules which they have been briefed about before being posted in red terror land,” he said.

A police officer based at Dornapal area of Dantewada district remarked: “Tuesday’s bloodbath will dampen the morale of the thousands of police force deployed in Bastar (on anti-Maoist operations).’’ 

The incident took place about 450 km south of Raipur. Dantewada is considered a stronghold of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist. It was the worst massacre since Maoists stormed an isolated police post in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district in March 2007 and killed 55 policemen.

Some major Naxal attacks

* July 16, 2008: 21 policemen killed when a police van was blown up in a landmine blast in Malkangiri district of Orissa.

* June 29: Maoists attack a boat on Balimela reservoir in Orissa carrying four anti-Naxalite police officials and 60 Greyhound commandos, killing 38 troops.

* Oct 8, 2009: 17 policemen killed when Maoists ambushed them at Laheri police station in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.

*Sep 30: Naxalites set ablaze Gram Panchayat offices at Korchi and Belgaon in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.

*Sep 26: Naxals kill BJP MP from Balaghat Baliram Kashyap’s sons at Pairaguda village in Jagdalpur (Chhattisgarh).

*Sep 4: Naxals kill four villagers in a forest in Aaded village in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district.

* Jul 31: A special police officer and another person killed by Naxals in Bijapur district.

* July 27: Six persons killed when Naxals trigger a landmine blast at Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh.

* July 23: A 40-year-old tribal killed by Naxalites at Ettapalli taluka in Gadchiroli district.

*July 18: Naxalites kill a villager in Bastar and in a separate incident torch a vehicle engaged in road construction work in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh.

* June 23: A group of motorcycle-borne armed Naxal rebels open fire on Lakhisarai district court premises in Bihar and free four of their comrades including the self-style Zonal Commander of Ranchi.

*June 16: Maoists kill 11 police officers in a landmine attack followed by armed assault. In a separate attack, four policemen were killed and two others seriously injured when Maoists ambush them at Beherakhand in Palamau district.

*June 13: Naxals launch two landmine and bomb attacks in a small town close to Bokaro, killing 10 policemen and injuring several others.

*June 10: Nine policemen, including CRPF troops and officers, ambushed by Maoists during a routine patrol in Saranda jungles in Jharkhand.

* May 22: Maoists kill 16 policemen in the jungles of Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra.

* April 22: Maoists hijack a train with at least 300 people on board in Jharkhand and force it to Latehar district before fleeing.

* April 13: 10 paramilitary troops killed in eastern Orissa when Maoists attack a bauxite mine in Koraput district.

* Feb 15, 2010: 24 personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles  killed as Maoists attack their camp in Silda in West Midnapore district of West Bengal.

* April 4, 2010: Maoists triggered a landmine blast killing 11 security personnel of the elite anti-naxal force Special Operations Group (SOG) in Koraput district of Orrisa.