Ten CRPF commandos belonging to Combat Battalion for Resolute Action were killed Monday night in serial IED blasts carried out by CPI(Maoist) extremists in Chakarbanda-Dumarinala forested area of Aurangabad district of Bihar.
Speaking to THE WEEK, CRPF DG K. Durga Prasad said at least 340 improvised explosive devices blew up the contingent. The commandos were working on a joint operation with the Bihar police to bust a Maoist gathering in the dense forested areas of Chakarbanda in the naxal-infested district.
Prasad had served as the inspector-general in charge of the then newly-formed anti-Maoist unit (CoBRA) in CRPF in 2008. Before his stint in COBRA, he was chief of the elite greyhounds unit in Andhra Pradesh at a time when the Maoists were wiped out from the state. Prasad later went on to become chief of the Special Protection Group, taking care of Prime Minister's security during the UPA tenure. When the Modi government came to power, he was removed as SPG boss and months later given the critical task of heading the CRPF at a time when the NDA government wants to emulate the "greyhound example" to crack down on the naxal menace in the country in next few years.
The fatal attack by the banned outfit has exposed glaring gaps in the intelligence gathering system as initial reports revealed that the COBRA team walked unawares into the trap laid by the Maoists. "We had no clue that the area was mined," said a top official who was coordinating the operations.
What failed to catch the eye of the intelligence unit of the Bihar police was the presence of a 12km-long mined stretch alongside Dumarinalaâ€”the route taken by the COBRA unit. The encounter happened when the commandos were moving from one hill to another in the forest near Dumarinala.
Prasad on Tuesday took a special flight from New Delhi to reach the spot. The CRPF chief said that though there were more explosions later, all casualties occurred during the first blast. Sources in the Home Ministry revealed that the evacuation exercise took time as the choppers could not land immediately because of the thick forest cover and Maoist firing till evening.
Combing operations have been launched by security forces to flush out the Maoists, the sources said, and additional forces are being deployed in inter-state border areas.
The attack has come as a wake-up call for the Union and state governments. Clearly, the banned CPI(Maoist) remains as potent a threat as ever. Officials overseeing anti-Naxal operations being carried out jointly by states and central paramilitary forces lamented that Bihar has been a problem state as far as Maoist insurgency is concerned. While the Nitish Kumar government has talked of its 'development first' strategy to weed out the Naxal problem, Home Ministry officials said the state was lagging behind in tackling the naxal threat effectively.
Sources revealed that the Central forces had been highlighting the need to tackle the IED threat citing an increase in Maoistsâ€™ expertise in manufacturing and laying IEDs. "A soft approach to the Maoist problem cannot yield results. A two-pronged strategy of security and development has to be adopted. Any let up in the anti-naxal operations will spell trouble in areas where the Maoists have a strong presence," an official said.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has spoken to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to take stock of the situation and offered central assistance.