Saturday, April 10, 2021

Failed Naxal tackling strategies

While Naxal influence in other states has reduced, Chhattisgarh continues to be the Maoist capital

Illustration. Credit: Sajith Kumar

In the din of blaring controversies on elections and vaccine-politics, what went unnoticed was how a rag tag army could humble the mighty Indian State on April 8 by wresting publicity advantage after the April 3 ambush which killed 22 security personnel on Bijapur-Sukma district border in Chhattisgarh.

The visuals aired by the social media on April 8 on the release of CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) commando Rakeshwar Singh Manhas were striking: the low key, non-rambunctious function, unlike an election rally was over in minutes. More than 200 Maoist adivasi men and women, some dressed in worn out battle fatigues, were calmly sitting in a circle in what was called the People’s Court. They were watching their leader who identified himself as DVC “Jagdish” untying the shackles of Manhas and handing him over to unidentified men who were later recognised as social workers.

Talking to a Bijapur correspondent, Jagdish did not fail to deliver propaganda in a calm and collected tone that they are fighting for Adivasi lands and water from `depredatory elements’ who were helped by the “dalal” (middlemen) police. He rejected all surrenders as “bogus” since no true “Maoist” would “surrender”. He also indicated that they were not worried if IPS officer Kalluri, considered as their nemesis, is brought back to operate against them.

What is the inner strength of their intelligence which enables them to deceive the security forces year after year? Maoists did it on June 29, 2008 when they ambushed 65 Andhra Pradesh “Greyhounds” in Odisha’s Balimela reservoir, killing 36, as the police were returning after an infructuous “Operation” based on deceptive intelligence. On April 3, 2021 too, deceptive information was received about the presence of Maoist commander Madvi Hidma at Tarrem, on Bijapur-Sukhma border. When five different teams converged at Junagada, they were ambushed by about 400 insurgents.

This incident provoked several complaints on social media that a sudden operational plan was prepared by a senior officer from New Delhi without consulting the ground level leaders who had to assemble troops from five different areas, who had not done joint training. Also, that the Maoists were monitoring troop movements through a CRPF wireless set which had fallen into their hands after the 2010 Dantewada massacre in which 76 Jawans were slaughtered.

A similar complaint was received from unidentified CRPF sources about the “Kasalpad” ambush on December 1, 2014 when 14 CRPF personnel including two officers were killed while returning from an operation. At that time, a senior military officer had suggested that such unwieldy contingents should not be deployed in jungles to combat Maoists who knew the terrain better. Yet another ambush took place on April 11, 2015 in Sukma killing seven policemen.

On April 8, 2021 another complaint came up that the intelligence for the April 3 “Operation” was received 20 days ago, throwing a doubt whether this was based on any NTRO (The National Technical Research Organisation, a government technical intelligence agency) input through drones operating since 2012. At that time, there were complaints from the ground that visual surveillance inputs from UAVs were usually sent to New Delhi for photo interpretation, resulting in delay. By the time such information was locally received, the targets would have already moved away as Maoists are constantly on the move.

I may mention here we had faced a similar problem in the late 1980s to monitor LTTE movements in and out of South India. Our monitoring stations used to send intercepts, sometimes in codes, to New Delhi for decryption and analysis, causing considerable delays

To overcome that, as a special case, we posted crypto analysts along with all Southern monitoring stations so that the output would be decrypted and interpreted immediately and conveyed to the stake holders speedily.

Collecting insurgency intelligence is a challenging subject. It is like almost law and order intelligence where the collectors and analysts need to have sound local knowledge. More often than not, insurgency intelligence is about movements which are short-term and time sensitive. Collecting that would necessarily mean reliance upon human intelligence, which would mean befriending the locals. An adivasi in tribal areas like Chhattisgargh or Jharkhand would not trust a CRPF “handler” from outside the state who does not know the local language.

Although several claims on “surrenders” are publicised, I have not come across any dependable literature on how Maoists collect intelligence on police. Unless we know this, we could never overcome their methods of intelligence operations. This is the great deficiency in our handling of the Maoist insurgency. Aerial monitoring has its own drawbacks as thick foliage in forest lands prevent clear identification. In May 2010, I had asked Raytheon, which had invited me to deliver a lecture at their Global Homeland Security Meet whether they had any solutions. They were not sure.

On the other hand, one could study details of the intelligence collection by the then outlawed United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) during their period of insurgency from 1996 to 2006 from the papers published by a British NGO which was permitted to be involved in the UN-sponsored peace talks with the Communists. Paul Jackson, a professor at the University of Birmingham, representing NGO “Saferworld”, has published a good paper in March 2019. He concludes that Maoist insurgents had the upper hand during the hostilities because the government intelligence was ineffective. On the other hand, the Communists had also developed “an information strategy to make themselves more acceptable to the local population”.

In dealing with the rump of Maoists in Chhattisgarh, we need to learn how the adivasis were originally brain washed. In 2007, I went to Hyderabad to meet late S R Sankaran, IAS (retired), an authority on Maoist insurgency and to whom two successive Andhra Pradesh governments had to turn for arranging peace talks in 2002 and 2004. The seeds of insurrection were planted in the 1980s by Naxal leader Kondappally Seetharamiah when he sent nine volunteers to the Dandakaranya to spread Naxalite philosophy on a 1+2 principle: one leader, two followers. They used to care for the needs of these neglected segments like education, conducting medical camps during epidemics etc while governments did nothing. Gradually these people started accepting the PWG’s (People’s War Group, a Naxal outfit) parallel government which was also free from corruption.

A tendency to crush the “Naxals” of all hues through brute force was evident after the NDA government assumed power in 2014. This is not going to work in areas like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The only possible solution is a mixture of selective use of force combined with better governance and development.

The only Central minister who understood the problems of Maoist insurgency was UPA government’s Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh who, after visiting 30 of the 78 affected districts, clearly identified the problem as “placing the interests of tribals below that of mining firms in the rush to attain high growth rates”. He recommended a new “Empowered Group of Ministers” instead of tackling it only by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Another solution will be adopting the forgotten the 2007-2010 “Punchhi Commission” recommendation on “localised emergency provisions” under Articles 355/356 to place even part of a district under Central rule for development and intensive counter-insurgency action. However, it is too optimistic for this to be accepted, given the bitter relations between the Centre and Opposition-ruled states now.

(The writer is former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat)

30 years on, notes from another Naxal hotbed

As we were preparing to fight the Naxals, the other challenge that we had to deal with was the trust deficit among locals. Whenever our teams went to villages, we found only old men and women, the others would flee.

Security force personnel patrol after an attack by Maoist fighters in Bijapur in Chhattisgarh (Reuters)

Written by KP Raghuvanshi

IN 1989, Naxal activity was at its peak in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. Many sarpanches, policemen and local Adivasis had been killed. Alarmed, the Maharashtra government came up with a ‘Special Action Plan’ to counter Naxals and a sum of Rs 100 crore was sanctioned for it. But despite the comprehensive strategy, the Naxal menace continued unabated.


Around the same time, in 1990, when I was serving as DCP Mumbai, I was transferred to Gadchiroli as Superintendent of Police. The shift from a metropolitan city to a gram panchayat was a big one for me and my family. When we arrived at the only guesthouse in the area, the temperature hovered around 45 degrees, and it was the promise of ice-cream that kept my restless children in check. Unfortunately, we were told at the guesthouse that much like treats such as bread, cake and cream biscuits, ice-cream too had to be ordered in advance and brought from neighbouring Chandrapur.

Since summer vacations were on, the children soon left to spend time with their grandparents, and I got the opportunity to travel around the entire district, 80 per cent of which was covered in thick jungles, without worrying about the family. (At the time, Naxals had been burning down government buildings to threaten locals). It didn’t take long for me to spot the lack of synergy in the action plan we had adopted.


As a first step, we began discussions with the local police, revenue officers, teachers, reporters, and families of victims of Naxal violence, who were reluctant to speak up. Fear among these sections, we soon realised, was the biggest hurdle for us.

That is when we came up with the idea of creating a special force. Most locals felt that government officers were posted to the region for a short period and had no major stake in their struggle. So we thought of inducting local Adivasis as they were the ones who faced the actual threat. That is how ‘Crack-60 (C-60)’ was created. I visited the Greyhound (special anti-insurgency unit) headquarters and the Inspector General there agreed to train our boys. Of the 100 boys who were selected, 60 were marked for round-the-clock operation.


As we were preparing to fight the Naxals, the other challenge that we had to deal with was the trust deficit among locals. Whenever our teams went to villages, we found only old men and women, the others would flee. Language was a big barrier too. The locals feared they would be branded police informants and killed.

So we changed our strategy. Our teams now started speaking to villagers about problems related to water, health etc. Our Adivasi constables helped. The teams also delivered medical kits and salt, both hard to find in the region, to the locals. Slowly, the gap was bridged. The rate of engagement increased, flow of information improved, and our teams were ready to take on Naxals.

In my two-year tenure, I experienced moving and high-risk situations as well as incidents that made me smile. Once we received information about a Naxal group camping on a hill-top. After travelling all night, when we arrived at the spot, there was no one. We had exhausted our dry ration and there was no water left to drink. Shortage of water was common, and many a time we would drink stagnant water mixed with potassium permanganate when we ran out of supply. One of the Adivasi constables in the group took us to a nearby village and asked a woman for food. She scooped off some ant-like insects from a tree, roasted them and mixed them with salt and offered it to us. Although I am non-vegetarian, I stuck to the rice water, but the insects provided the much-needed protein to my team.

The incident also alerted us about another challenge — dealing with false information. As security officers, we can never ignore any information, but it may be incorrect and expose our teams to threat. That is among the reasons why we are seeing so many casualties these days, particularly in Chhattisgarh.

The dense foliage of Gadchiroli also made patrolling difficult. Half of the district is cut off during monsoons because of overflowing rivers and lack of bridges. During my tenure, Head Constable Tara Chand was kidnapped by Naxals and we received intel about his whereabouts. To get to the spot, we had to cross the Bandi river. We got an inflatable boat but there was no trained sailor to row it. I knew how to swim and asked my team if they would want to proceed. Eventually, six jawans and I got into the boat and went ahead. When we were only 200 metres from the bank, the boat just wouldn’t move forward. We somehow managed to return to our base. Retrospectively, I think it was a foolish step. If Naxals were present on the other side, we would have become easy targets.

There were also incidents that still send waves of grief through me, like the time when one of our platoons was blown off by Naxals near Bhamragad. When I reached the spot, there were bodies strewn all over, some writhing in pain. Sending 13 coffins with security personnel to their villages is among the painful memories of my tenure.

I was transferred out of Gadchiroli in July 1992 and, soon after, Naxal commander ‘Santhosh Anna’ was killed by the C-60 force. It was a big achievement.

A few years ago, I visited Gadchiroli again and was thrilled to see the infrastructure that had come up in the region. The C-60 force had neutralised a majority of the Naxal groups in the area and there was hardly any fear among locals. But it took years for the team to show results; it didn’t happen in one day or one year. We must invest in similar efforts to resolve the insurgency issues of today.

K P Raghuvansh, former ATS chief, set up C-60, tasked with countering Maoists violence in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli

Seven Naxalites arrested in Jharkhand's Latehar district

In Jharkhand, State Police have nabbed seven Naxalites and foiled  the nefarious plans of  the Peoples' Liberation Front of India (PLFI) militants from the forest areas under Chandwa police station in Latehar district. Latehar SP Prashant Anand received secret information about the Maoists activities and launched  a combing  operation and arrested the  insurgents . Police have recovered 2 indigenous rifles, 8 live cartridges and 11 mobiles at the behest of the arrested militants.
Speaking to AIR News, Palamu DIG Rajkumar Lakra said that  the insurgents  were preparing a strategy to carry out an attack  in the forest areas close to neighbouring state Chhattisgarh. Raids were conducted by a team of State Police forces, Jharkhand Jaguars and AG-37

We are winning against Maoists, but it doesn’t have to come at such high cost

April 11, 2021, 7:28 AM IST 
Rahul Pandita

Pandita is the author of Hello, Bastar: The Untold Story of India’s Maoist movement.

The director-general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is of the opinion that the killing of 22 security personnel, including seven of his commandos, in a Maoist ambush last week is not an intelligence and operational failure. Perhaps he meant to say that in encounters with insurgent groups like the CPI (Maoist) such casualties are bound to happen.

The problem begins here. It is not that soldiers do not die in gun battles. The problem, as many CRPF officers would tell you in anguish, is that they do not have to die so senselessly. That will only stop when we stop lying to ourselves and look at cold facts staring at us.

Consider the Bijapur ambush in Chhattisgarh, laid so well by the Maoist guerrillas that the troops had no inkling of it till they found themselves surrounded. The teams of security personnel had been sent out on an operation based on “intelligence inputs” that the elusive Maoist commander Madvi Hidma and a large number of his fighters had gathered at a village on the Sukma-Bijapur border. When the teams reached the location, they found nothing there. As they were returning, some of them came under heavy attack from a big group of Maoists, armed with grenade launchers and at least one Light Machine Gun. The “intelligence inputs”, of course, did not specify any of this. If it did, why were the forces not ready for it?

Also, according to the CRPF chief, the security forces also managed to kill an equal amount of Maoists. There is no evidence of it so far; only one body of a female Maoist guerrilla could be recovered from the site, while the Maoists have acknowledged the death of four fighters. But, let us go by the DG’s numbers, and assume that 22-23 Maoists were killed as well. That is a terrible ratio of 1:1. As at least one former Cobra veteran has pointed out that counter-insurgency operations aim at a ratio of 8:1 (eight insurgents to one soldier), that too when soldiers are chasing insurgents on a specific input. But there is clear indication that it was the other way round. The Maoists had set up a trap and some of those in the operation fell into it.

Why did this happen? 

This happened because there have been

 no learnings from several such mistakes in the past. 

There is 

no investigation, and no post-mortem of what went wrong. 

In the absence of any serious inquiry, body bags keep coming. Speak to any CRPF officer on the ground in Sukma or Bijapur, and he will tell you that such ill-fated operations are planned by officers who have no understanding of the Maoist heartland other than the PowerPoint presentations they carry on their laptops. Sometimes, buoyed by their ‘performance’ in other sectors like Kashmir, they think that the same models of counter-insurgency can be replicated in villages where it has taken years for some security personnel to develop a little understanding. But officers who have far better wisdom on Maoists and their surroundings because of their on-ground experience have hardly any role to play in planning such operations.

A CRPF officer once told me about an operation several years ago that went wrong on similar accounts like the one in Bijapur. “If I put T in the plan, my senior, who had come on deputation, would remove it and put K,” he said. And when it finally got implemented, it led to a botched-up operation in which several CRPF men lost their lives.

The irony is that the state is bound to win the war against the Maoists. In the last few years, their strongholds are falling one by one. For instance, in the so-called cut off area in Odisha’s Malkangiri district, from where the Maoists abducted my friend Vineel Krishna in 2011, the building of a bridge over Gurupriya River has been a game-changer. In Sukma itself, the road from Dornapal to Jagargunda and beyond it is ensuring that the Maoists are pushed further back. Better connectivity means that the Adivasis, especially the younger ones, who have lived under the shadow of Maoists, will get a chance to see how vast (and, hopefully, promising) the outside world is. In areas like the one Hidma operates in, there are still pockets of sympathy for Maoists. And, no matter what the state would like you to believe, a lot of it comes from the government’s support to mindless and vicious plans like the Salwa Judum.

The Maoists will be defeated eventually. But setbacks like the one in Bijapur, where hundreds of Adivasis witnessed a Cobra commando tied in ropes, will stagger this process.

Pandita is the author of Hello, Bastar: The Untold Story of India’s Maoist movement

Bengal to Bihar: how states dealt with Maoists


The cradle of the Naxal movement first saw Maoist rebellion in 1967, but it was quickly put down. The phenomenon raised its head again in the 1990s. By the 2000s, Maoists had influence in 18 districts of the state.

Today, the Maoist hold is limited to Gaya and neighbouring districts. In 2020, the state recorded 26 incidents, with eight civilian deaths.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), from a peak of over 200 districts being affected by Maoist violence in the mid-2000s, the numbers are down to just 90, with the worst-affected districts only 30. While Chhattisgarh, and to an extent Jharkhand, continue to struggle in the battle against Maoists, other states, apart from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, have managed to restrict Naxal activity

Maoists Kidnap 3 Medical Workers From Bijapur

10 Apr, 2021 15:12 IST

Three medical workers in Chhattisgarh were allegedly abducted from Bijapur on Friday. It is suspected that they were abducted by Maoists.

“Some notorious elements came into the village late in the night and took away the health care workers,” said Bijapur Chief Medical and Health Officer BR Pujari.



The health official said the families of the health care workers did not file a complaint, but a few villagers approached the police with the matter on Friday. The police are yet to register a case, Pujari added.

Bijapur was recently in the news after a security officer, who was abducted by Maoists, was kept hostage by them in the jungles of the district since the April 3 encounter. CRPF commando Rakeshwar Singh Manhas was released on Thursday.

Twenty-two security personnel were killed and 30 others were wounded in the Sukma Maoist Attack. This was the bloodiest ambush of its kind in four years.

Chhattigarh: ITBP detects bomb in Narayanpur; CPI Maoists to observe Bharat Bandh on April 26

10:29 PM Apr 10, 2021 | AVDHESH MALLICK
      Koo App
Chhattigarh: ITBP detects bomb in Narayanpur; CPI Maoists to observe Bharat Bandh on April 26

Raipur: After the deadly encounter in Bijapur on April 3, the dangers of further naxal violence have not reduced in Chhattisgarh. Meanwhile, CPI Maoists issued press releases and posters indicating more violence in April month.

CPI Maoists once more issued a press note and posters claiming that Bharat Bandh will be observed in India on April 26 and from April 1-25 all sorts of the steps will be initiated to disrupt the activities of security forces in Bastar and other naxal stronghold areas. In the poster naxal naming their killed comrades, they asked their guerrilla forces to unleash more attacks on security forces.


Notably, Naxals have changed their Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) these days, said one local journalist of Bastar.


In an earlier statement, IG Bastar Sundarraj P said, the security forces are on alert and taking all sorts of possible measures.

Amid the threats of more violence, a team of security forces have a close shave in Narayanpur.

The security forces team of 53rd Battalion Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) detected a tiffin bomb fitted with Improvised Explosive Device (IED) near a road in Kurushnar, Narayanpur on Saturday and averted a major damage, Additional Superintendent of Police Neeraj Chandrakar said.

However, three Mitanins (lady health workers) engaged in Covid vaccination drive in naxal strongholds of Bijapur were kidnapped by the red ultras two days ago and were released and safe.

Meanwhile, Bijapur police again succeed in getting a hard core naxal to surrender before the police.

Bijapur Police said in a press note that 30 years old Ramesh Madvi of Mudiya tribe, resident of Sakin Galgam, limits Usoor police station joined the Naxals as child soldier in 2003 under influence of Naxal Commander Sapanekka and reached to rank of Commander Galgam Militia Commander Platoon C-Section. Against him a warrant was pending and wanted by police. He was highly frustrated of mindless violence carried out by the Naxals. As he was continuously prevented by the Maoists to meet his family, he decided to give up the arms, the police claimed.

The surrender naxal was provided Rs 10,000 as part of rehabilitation package, Bijapur police said

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Bastar police chief on Naxal attack: ‘No, our forces weren’t lured into a trap’

The Naxal ambush that killed 22 security personnel in the forest of Tarrem, Chhattisgarh, on April 3, was the deadliest in recent years. It revived memories of the 2010 Tadmetla attack in which 76 CRPF personnel were killed and the Jheeram Ghati of 2013 which wiped out the entire leadership of the Congress party in Chhattisgarh. The forces targeted in Tarrem were commanded by Sundarraj Pattilingam, inspector general of police, Bastar.

Pattilingam spoke with Newslaundry about the attack and the security situation in Bastar.

It’s said Naxals used unverified intelligence to lure the security forces into a trap. Was that the case?

No, our forces were not lured into a trap. We got a specific intelligence input that there was a selective gathering in the area and based on that information forces were sent out. The input was about the presence of People's Liberation Guerrilla Army’s Battalion 1 and its commander Madvi Hidma. Around 1,800 men from Cobra battalion, District Reserve Guard, Special Task Force, and Bastaraiya Battalion from the camps of Tarrem, Minpa, Narsapuram, and Pamed were sent into the core area of Naxals. Battalion 1 mostly operates on the border of Sukma and Bijapur. So, it was our conscious decision to go to that area.

If we have to tackle the Naxal problem we can’t do it sitting at the district headquarters. We need to venture into these areas in order to neutralise them. There are three ways to neutralise anti-democratic forces in the area – if someone wants to surrender they are more than welcome, the second way is to arrest them, and the third way is to eliminate them. We can't allow Naxals to dominate the area.

This was one of the deadliest Naxal attacks in recent times. While the security forces suffered 22 casualties, Naxals say they lost only five fighters. What went wrong?

Six hundred of our men went to Tarrem where the action took place. The battle started around 12 pm, with 53 of our men engaging around 300 Naxals in a gunfight. In the end, 22 of them were martyred and the rest suffered injuries. Naxals also suffered casualties in double figures. They generally hide their casualties so as not to demoralise their cadres.

As per our information they suffered 12 casualties and 16 to 18 of their cadres were seriously injured. The media has reported that our forces fell into a trap, but I don't accept this point of view.

It was reported that the security forces were ambushed while they were returning from the forest? What exactly happened?

It’s very difficult to explain the tactical part of it but for general understanding it was not an ambush where our men couldn’t react. It was not like Tadmetla where our men were washed out before they could do anything. It was totally different this time. It was a pitched battle.

What do you know about Madvi Hidma and his Battalion 1?

Hidma comes from Poovarti village, which is hardly 6 km from where the gunfight took place. He has led Battalion 1 for the past 10 years and was also responsible for the Jheeram Ghati attack on Congress leaders. Battalion 1 is actually the only battalion of the CPI Maoist and is based in South Bastar. It is one of the most formidable extremist groups in the country, more formidable than insurgent groups in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast. Militants in Kashmir engage in combat in small groups or carry out suicide attacks, insurgents in the Northeast fight in groups of 40-50 and lay ambushes. But the PLGA Battalion 1 is like a CRPF company and is equipped with sophisticated weapons. Engaging with them is like proper warfare. Generally, an armed forces battalion has a strength of 1,000 people, Battalion 1 has only 180-200 people but it also relies on the support of small platoons of Naxals during combat who take its strength to 300 and more.

These people know the terrain like the backs of their hands, and they have a strong information network because of their jana militia. Battalion 1 operates out of an unadministered area, it’s one of the most neglected areas of the undivided Madhya Pradesh. All these factors combined with their strength and weapons make Battalion 1 formidable. They have significant firepower. They have modern weapons which they have looted from security forces over the years. We found an INSAS rifle on the body of a female Naxal who was neutralised in a gunbattle on March 3.

Why have the security forces not been able to arrest Hidma?

This recent operation was also an attempt to capture him. We received input about him and his group. It wasn’t the first we had ventured into that area. Sometimes we achieved a small success, sometimes we came back empty handed, and sometimes we suffered casualties. To make you understand the situation I’d like to give you the example of Veerapan. He was a forest brigand with 40-50 people under him but it took 20 years to neutralise him. Veerappan was just a smuggler while Hidma is a Naxal commander with a battalion at his disposal. And he is more tactical and influential than Veerappan. But this isn’t an excuse, we will get hold of him soon.

Hidma has a strong information and jan militia network. He’s a commander and is always guarded, as all top Naxal leaders are. If the situation gets bad, the leader is the first to retreat. Naxals can’t afford to lose their leaders since there are very few of them, and if an influential leader gets killed it damages the morale of the cadre.

Whenever we enter their territory, our presence gets noticed. We can't hide because it is their core area and we can be spotted easily. Information reaches them about our arrival through their militia and couriers. Once they receive this information, they try to ambush us. But the days are gone when they could attack the security forces using IEDs placed along the roads.

You said Battalion 1 is a formidable force based in South Bastar? Does it operate across states affected by Naxalism?

South Bastar was an unadministered area when Chhattisgarh was part of Madhya Pradesh. An area of about 4,000 sq km in South Bastar and South Sukama was kind of administered by Naxals. After the formation of Chhattisgarh, we gradually tried to reclaim that territory. Although it is not some international territory, “reclamation” is the right word. We have managed to get back around 3000 sq km but 1,000 sq km is still under their influence. This area stretches from Basaguda to Bheji, and it’s this area along the interdistrict border of Bijapur and Sukma that’s the base of Battalion 1. In its early days, Battalion 1 used to operate out of this area and launch attacks such as the one in Jheeram Ghati. But for the last five years we have restricted them and they have not been able to move out to carry out operations.

Six months ago, we established a base camp at Tarrem and laid a road from Basaguda to Tarrem. Other development projects will follow soon.

An attempt to broker peace between the government and Naxals was in the works in Bastar. After this recent attack, will there ever be peace in Bastar?

Naxals no longer follow their ideology and operate like criminal gangs. The cadre of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal committee still have some ideology unlike the Maoist Communist Centre of Bihar, but gradually they are becoming like their counterparts in Jharkhand and Bihar. In a narrow view, it may look like they have a strong hold on the area and can inflict damage on the security forces but the actual situation isn’t like that. They are losing the battle and are now restricted to a 1,000-sq km area in South Bastar. They do have to engage in talks with the government.

They still have places such as Abhujmad but those are only for hiding. They extort money from local villagers and so people support them only out of compulsion. South and West Bastar will slowly slip out of their hands. Basically they are not on a strong footing. Even a cat can pounce on you in a dark room, but she knows very well that she can do this only in darkness.

To release the captured CRPF man Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, Naxals have said the government must first name mediators. What do you make of this?

We are going through the proposal and will do the needful. They have said the jawan is in safe custody.

The interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

War against Naxals: Times Now travels to deep inside Maoist territory - exclusive ground report

War against Naxals: Times Now travels to deep inside Maoist territory - exclusive ground report

CRPF jawans were rescued from the site by a chopper
Priyank Tripathi| Special Correspondent
Updated Apr 07, 2021 | 18:04 IST

The latest statement by the Maoist group has admitted to the death of five of their men and women, but the government believes that the enemies' casualties could be much higher.

CRPF jawans were rescued from the site by a chopper

CRPF jawans were rescued from the site by a chopper

Times Now traveled to Naxal stronghold 'battalion one' located at Bijapur to find what transpired on Saturday which led to the martyrdom of 22 security personnel and the abduction of one COBRA constable. This is probably the biggest loss in recent times.

As reported by Times Now from ground zero, the latest statement by the Maoist group has admitted to the death of five of their men and women, but the government believes that the enemies' casualties could be much higher but the banned organisation has also displayed ammunition that they have stolen from security forces. 

Apart from control and dominance over strategic areas, the fight is over control over the road which connects Dantevada and Sukma from Bijapur. In this conflict zone, road construction is not an easy task. Every inch of road construction sees a conflict between Maoists and security forces

The biggest challenge in road construction is to safely build up a camp for the security personnel so that the next stage of 5 km could be constructed as part of a dominance exercise.



The past three years has seen the government trying to build up the road from Tarrem police station till Silgur, which is the strongest area of Hidma who virtually controls the Dand Karan Special Zonal committee members ( DKFZC). To stop the construction work, DKFZC has used every trick possible.

Before starting deadly attacks on security forces, they had spread fake news of sexual assault of Trible women by security forces. This fake news helped them in winning support of tribals.

In 2016, Times Now had travelled to the Pedagulur village where we had met Hidma. Since then he is ready to have a one on one confrontation with the forces. After failing to achieve their target, a series of attacks were carried out, all under Hidma's supervision. He later forced the local civic bodies who resigned and staged a protest against the local administration. The government had then sent a delegation to have a dialogue, the issue was resolved after talks. 

In the last three decades, gunfight has been continuing over control of Jagargunda-Jongaguda-Tarrem axis. Till now, 383 men have been martyred protecting this stretch of road since 1991.

Data of the Naxal Attack since 1991:

April 4th 1991 

Location: Mariguda.

19 security personnel lost their life's after the bus carrying them exploded in the blast.


Location: Tarrem Village, Bijapur.

Two jeeps were attacked in which 19 men got martyred including a DySP.

March 15th, 2007

Location: RaniBodly Bijapur

55 men died after an attack at their camp in the night.

April 6th 2010 

Location: Tadmedla

76 died in an Ambush. 

April 17th 2010

A civilian bus carrying security was blown in a landmine blast. 36 died.

June 29th 2010 

Location: Narayanpur.

27 died after an attack on their security camp.

May 25th 2013 

Location: Dharbha

Congress statement President's election campaign team was attacked. 30 died.

April 12, 2014

Location: Kutru, Bijapur

Poling agent and six died. 

Location: Bastar
Ambulance attacked, 5 died in the incidents.

Total deaths: 13

March 2017

Location: Beheji,Sukma

11 deaths reported in an attack by Naxals.

April 25th 2017

Location: Burkhapal

32 CRPF men died after an attack.

May 6th 2017

Location: Kasalpad, Sukma

14 death reported after the Naxal attack.

April 9, 2019

Location: kaunkoda, Dantewada

Bheema Madavi the Local MLA and three died.

March 21st 2020

Location : Minpa village, Sukma

25 security personnel died in an Ambush.

April 2021
Location: Junnaguda,Tarrem 

23 jawan were martyred, five Naxals also claimed to be dead in the attack.

To understand what happened on the bloody Saturday, Times Now travelled from Bijapur district headquarters to Silgar. Once you enter the deserted part, you see the pictures of security personnel's who have died in counter Naxal operation. In Silgar, construction work was stopped several months back.

On our way to Tarrem, we met a local journalist Raunak, who during the conversation told us the importance of the road and the long battle that he has witnessed between Naxals and security forces over decades. On the extreme outskirts of Bijapur is Aawapalli village which has a mini-market. People. particularly youth, have no employment opportunities except Manrega. They told us how they struggled in their childhood without motorable roads. Aawapalli village, one in the extreme outskirts of the Bijapur, has the last mini market.

Unlike youth in the other parts of the country, men don't have opportunities to work in private organisations, the only source of their employment is the government schemes like MANREGA. They told us their stories of struggle in their childhood to reach home without any motorable roads.

Tarrem probably is the last guarded area that has a police station.. the presence of central paramilitary forces and state police who live in barracks. 

In an attempt to spread dominance in interior areas,  efforts were on to construct two more camps but police teams later could only find malfunctioned solar panels in small shanties in villages

To trace the missing CRPF jawans, the Times Now crew drove 13 km on a hilly terrain. We interacted with locals who gave us some vague locations of Naxals which could not be trusted.

We reached Pedagulur village where tribal women were allegedly sexually assaulted in 2016. We lost our opportunity to go further. It started raining and we had no option but to go back to Bijapur.

Speaking to multiple sources, Times Now has construed what happened on 3rd April which saw a bloody encounter. There was specific information about Hidama, head of battalion 1 of the deadly Maoist group. The joint team launched an operation. Intercepts showed that Hidma and another commander Sujatha being present in a nearby village.

The encounter started at 11 am in Jeera village of Thekla Guda. After facing heavy gunfire, Maoists came down from the mountains and attacked security forces from all sites.

The Naxals formed a U shaped formation and continuously fired at security forces. Three hours later at 2 pm a request was received for immediate evacuation. By then 22 security personnel had martyred. Visuals of the encounter show a chopper of the Indian airforce lifting men from the encounter site.

Seven injured security personnel were shifted to the hospital. However,  unfortunately, the bodies of more slain Jawan could not have been taken on that day. They were then taken back on the next day that is on 4th April.

In a press statement issued on Tuesday, the Naxals have released pictures of the ammunition stolen after the death of the jawans. The picture has 12 automatic rifles like AK 47 and sniper guns along with live cartridges and walkie talkies with cell phones