On April 3, Maoists killed 22 security personnel near Tekulgudem village of South Bastar. The slain personnel were part of the joint parties of the CRPF’s Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA), the Special Task Force (STF) and the District Reserve Guards (DRG) of Chhattisgarh Police that had left for an intelligence-based operation a day before from Tarrem, the farthest security camp in Bijapur district, and their target area was about 12 km away in neighbouring Sukma district. When the forces occupied a dominating hill feature after searching the area, the Maoists surrounded them and started firing with automatic weapons and grenades. The jawans retaliated immediately, but suffered casualties while breaking out of the ambush. A few of the wounded were rescued by helicopters the same day, and the operation was completed the next morning when the bodies were retrieved. A jawan is missing and suspected to be in Maoist captivity. Though the CPI(Maoist) press release of April 6 says they lost four of their cadre, including two from the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), which is celebrating 20 years of its formation, the security forces could retrieve the body of a woman cadre. Such is the nature of the mobile war unleashed by Maoists in their so-called base areas, which are pockets of a security vacuum.
After paying their respects to the slain personnel at Jagdalpur, Union home minster Amit Shah and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel said new security camps would continue to be set up as scheduled and anti-Maoist operations intensified until the Maoists are wiped out. Five more CRPF battalions are in the process of deployment in South Bastar’s security-deficit areas. The total deployment of central armed police forces in Chhattisgarh has gradually increased to 50-odd battalions since 2003 when three CRPF battalions had arrived to assist the state. Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh has raised its own Special Intelligence Branch, STF and DRG, and increased its armed police battalions from seven to 22 to boost anti-Maoist operations. The new security camps are being established in the ‘base areas’ and will restrict the movement of the biggest Maoist military formation—Battalion No. 1, which comprises two military companies and a headquarters unit. This battalion headed by Hidmal Madvi, a local Gond adivasi from Sukma’s Puvarti village, was most likely involved in the exchange of fire on April 3.