Saturday, September 01, 2007

Cops ran away, let Naxals mow down 55: Official probe

Nitin Mahajan

Posted online: Saturday, September 01, 2007 at 0000 hrs Print Email

Security personnel abandoned posts, sought shelter in girls’ hostel; many could have been drunk; too much confidence in poorly trained ‘Special Police Officers’

Raipur, August 31: How prepared the security establishment is to tackle Naxalite terror has been exposed by an official investigation into the worst-ever Naxalite attack that killed 55 security personnel in Chhattisgarh on March 15 this year.

Cowardice, desertion by security personnel, too much dependence on locally-recruited Special Police Officers (SPOs) delayed rescue operations, lack of proper training and even consumption of intoxicants have been identified as the key reasons that let Naxalites kill 16 Chhattisgarh Armed Police personnel and 39 SPOs.

The attack at Rani Bodli, a security outpost in the state’s Bijapur district, continued for about three hours and was carried out by at least 400 Naxalites, mostly from the military dalam of Maharashtra.

The investigation report, a copy of which has been obtained by The Indian Express, was prepared by Inspector General (Naxal Operations and State Intelligence) Girdhari Nayak and has been given to Chief Minister Raman Singh, Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam and Director General of Police Vishwaranjan.

Its startling revelations:

• Three jawans of Chhattisgarh Police Majji Shankar, Sagau Patel and Keshav Singh Yadav, deployed on the watchtowers built on the outpost’s roof, deserted their post as soon as the attack began to take shelter in the adjoining SC/ST welfare department hostel building. The fact was corroborated by the statement of Assistant teacher Ram Shankar Singh Thakur that these jawans hid among the 30 girls, along with their weapons and ammunition. The sentry posts were crucial for the security of the outpost as they were Light Machine Gun points which could have repulsed the attack.

• Investigators have refuted Majji Shankar’s statement that he fired 11 LMG magazines and three SLR magazines before vacating his post. The claims of the other two who said they fired eight SLR magazines has been found to be false.

• “They simply abandoned their posts out of cowardice,” the investigation report states citing the fact that although the three claimed to have fired over 500 rounds, only a few empty shells were recovered from the watchtowers.

• All six sentry posts along the boundary of the outpost were manned by only SPOs. About 4,000, mostly tribal, youths from Bastar have been employed by Chhattisgarh Police as SPOs in the five Naxal-dominated districts. They are paid Rs 1500 per month and are given merely a general training in weapons-handling.

• The six positions were manned by nine SPOs who were inadequately trained. They weren’t able to detect the presence of Naxalites in the area until a .303 rifle was snatched from one of them, Todsa Putti.

• SPO Kawasi Aayatu admitted to providing a goat, five bottles of whisky and laandaa (country liquor) to security personnel to celebrate as he got married three days before the incident. Statements of SPOs Jagru Podiyam, Majji Budhram, Beladi Narayan, the cook of SC/ST welfare hostel Aayatam Nagaiya and Ram Shankar Singh Thakur confirmed that security personnel at the outpost were drinking intoxicants on a regular basis and most of them could have also consumed liquor on the day of the attack.

• Not one Chhattisgarh Armed Police personnel was posted along the perimeter fence, “too much confidence has been shown in the ability of SPOs.”

• The entire force was in one building making them an easy target. The practice of posting a small group of security personnel in a nearby primary school building and a night party on search and surveillance mission in nearby jungles was also discontinued at the outpost. These personnel could have attacked the Naxalite cadres had they been deployed.”

• There were three Central Reserve Police Force camps within a radius of 10 km of the outpost but while the SOS was sent at 2.10 am and acknowledged by all police positions in the area, the first rescue party was sent only at 4 a.m. from Kutru police station.

• While 22 Chhattisgarh Police jawans and 55 SPOs were present in the outpost when the attack started, most were sleeping. Not one body was recovered from the sentry posts as most of them were deserted as soon as the attack started. Most bodies were recovered lying around in the front or backyard of the outpost.

• The jawans weren’t prepared for an attack as most of them seemed to have fired indiscriminately. About 350 bullet marks were located on the inside boundary wall of the outpost, which clearly shows that jawans fired indiscriminately and several of them could have been killed by bullets fired by their colleagues.

• SPOs Roshan Lal Gota, Somru Sodi, Jagru Podyam, Aando Ram, Kursam Hiriya, Mijji Budhram and Bedali Narayan deserted the outpost after scaling the outer perimeter wall


The investigators say that the Naxalites launched the attack to undermine the Salwa Judum, the people’s force launched in the district to counter the Naxals. “The loss of lives could have been avoided if the sentries posted on duty were alert and hadn’t deserted their posts,” the report states. The sentries weren’t being checked by a “watcher” who would have been helpful in keeping them alert. Despite indicting the security structure, the report, curiously, is silent on proposed action against erring officials.

Home Minister Netam refused to comment on the issue. DGP Vishwaranjan said he was touring Bastar to take stock of the ongoing fight against Maoist extremists. “I won’t be able to comment on it as I am yet to see the report,” he said.

The incident

On March 15, Naxalite cadres killed 55 security personnel posted at Rani Bodli, a security outpost located in Maoist-infested Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh. At least 400 Naxalites, are believed to have carried out the attack which continued for about three hours