At a press conference here on April 7, a day after 75 members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and a head constable of the district police perished in a Maoist attack, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram insisted the name “Operation Green Hunt” was never officially used to describe any joint-operations by the CRPF and State forces. In Raipur the same day, he was equally forthright: “There is no Operation Green Hunt,” he said.
CRPF soldiers however, are not convinced.
“If there is no such operation, then what have we been doing in Chhattisgarh for the last eight months?” a soldier recovering from his wounds at the Maharani Hospital in Jagdalpur, Chhatisgarh, said. “If there are no operations, why is the CRPF here?”
At the CRPF camp in Chintalnar, CRPF personnel are furious at what they perceive an official denial of the operations undertaken by the force. Ever since the massacre, soldiers have barricaded the camp with concertina wire and refused to talk to the press.
But interviews with soldiers involved in the events of April 6, and those wounded in prior ambushes reveal a deep resentment among the paramilitary forces with the material condition of the military camps and the absence of logistical support from the State government.
“We don't even have proper camps and barracks,” said a soldier at the hospital. “The existing buildings have neither proper fences nor clear lines of fire.” As reported by TheHindu on March 27, 2010, a significant number of CRPF camps are still housed in schools, health centres and panchayat offices, to the chagrin of villagers and soldiers alike.
Soldiers also pointed to the absence of telephone contact with the outside world. “Maoists have phones and regularly talk to their families,” said a soldier who was wounded in an IED explosion in Bijapur last month, “Months pass before we can talk to our families.”
This week's ambush has also drawn attention to the distance between individual camps and the absence of adequate support. At present, there are three companies divided between Chintalnar and Chintagupha – two CRPF camps that are separated by about 10 km of broken road. It takes nearly four hours by road to reach either camp from the military headquarters in Dantewada.
“Only one company can patrol at a time, as we need some people to stay back and protect the camp from being overrun by Maoists,” said a jawan. “ This caps the number of patrolling soldiers at about 80 men and makes it very difficult to send reinforcements in case of an ambush.”
On April 6, for instance, the ambush occurred at about 6 a.m. at a spot only five km from the Chintalnar camp, but reinforcements arrived three hours later, after fighting through another ambush en route. “We left our camp at about 7.30 a.m.,” said a soldier, who was part of the reinforcement team, “But we were ambushed ourselves at a bridge. Meanwhile, a company tried to come from Chintagupha, but they too were stopped.”
By the time the force reached, the Maoists had killed 76 men and injured another 7.
In an interview last month, Inspector General R.K. Vij told TheHindu that building proper camps was a top priority and Rs. 70 crore was set aside to construct new barracks for the seven additional battalions of paramilitary forces allocated to Chhatisgarh. The new camps would have independent electricity sources, telecommunication facilities and adequate perimeter security, he said.