The only reason Aman Singh is alive today is because Maoists shot him last month. On March 10, 2010, Maoists ambushed the 62nd battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force at the same spot as Tuesday’s massacre of 76 of Singh’s comrades in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district.
“That day there weren’t so many Maoists in the ambush,” said Singh, in an interview at the Maharani Hospital here on Thursday, “I was the only one injured when I took a bullet just above the knee.” He said the April 6 attack was the third time the company was ambushed in the same area in two months. “They [Maoists] also tried to attack on March 1 this year while we were patrolling the same stretch near Tarmetla village.” When they finally succeeded on April 6, they killed Singh’s entire platoon.
Two days after the tragedy, the broad outlines of the deadly attack are becoming clearer. The A-company and part of G-company of the 62nd Battalion left for a three-day Area Domination Exercise on April 4. The mission was also expected to reacquaint the A-company with the area and the terrain, as they had spent the last few months in training at Barsur in Dantewada district.
However, the exact nature of the three-day exercise still remains unclear. What was the force doing in the forest, and more importantly, how did the Maoists predict their path with such lethal accuracy?
Informed sources told TheHindu that the Area Domination Exercise was conducted as a precursor to a massive road-opening operation as the A-company was to replace the G-Company in the Chintalnar camp. “While the force can go on foot, we needed to open the road for supplies,” said the sources.
Accordingly, a patrol party of 81 men was mobilised to sanitise the area within a 5 kilometre radius of the Chintalnar camp. The sources said the Maoists probably anticipated the change of companies and so assembled a battalion strength (between 700 and 900 men) force to attack the road-opening operation.
“The Maoists had occupied a hill facing the Chintalnar-Chintagupha road,” said a senior source in the CRPF, who was not present at the site when the incident occurred. “We believe they were planning to attack the force on the main road that serves as our lifeline for all supplies.”
According to sources in the Intelligence apparatus, the patrolling party had also gained information that Maoists were moving along the Tongpalli-Tarmetla route. “They lay in wait for the Maoists till the early hours of the morning on April 6 and then headed back to base camp,” said the sources.
On their way back to camp, the ill-fated company from the 62nd Battalion appeared in an open field, about 600 metres from the main road, and right in the line of fire of a Maoist battalion that was anticipating a much bigger force. On seeing the CRPF company, it seems the Maoists simply swivelled 90 degrees to their left and opened fire on the unsuspecting men.