Senior officers confirmed that the Army had begun a ground survey as a precursor to the establishment of a training facility in Chhattisgarh's Maoist-affected Narayanpur district.
On Saturday, a team of officers from the Army's Central Command reached Kondagaon, a small town on the Raipur-Jagadalpur road before heading towards Abujmard — a 4,000 sq. km. patch of dense forest land that had been declared a “liberated zone” by the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Formed in 2004, the CPI (Maoist) is a guerrilla organisation self-professedly committed to the overthrow of the Indian state through armed revolution. In 2010, Maoist cadres killed over 100 well-trained paramilitary troopers in Chhattisgarh alone, leading to calls to deploy the Army alongside paramilitary forces such as the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP) currently engaged in anti-Maoist operations across central India.
In December last year, the Army confirmed reports that it was in the process of acquiring over 100 acres of land on the edge of Abujmard for a jungle training facility for live fire military exercises and manoeuvres that simulate actual combat, but stressed that the facility was for training purposes only and did not constitute a de facto deployment in Chhattisgarh.
However, senior officers in the Army and the CRPF noted that the training facility would house permanent structures such as barracks, toilets and equipment sheds and would require regular armed patrols that would lead to an “automatic sanitisation” of the area.
“The base shall be located right next to the den of the Naxalites,” said Brig. (retd.) B.K. Ponwar, head of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College in Kanker, Chhattisgarh. “It shall have a good psychological impact on the Naxalites to know that the tiger is sitting just outside.”
On Sunday, local newspapers reported that 400 jawans and 25 Army vehicles had been deployed to conduct the survey. Speaking off record, a senior Army officer dismissed these reports as unfounded. “Only a few officers are involved in the survey and security is being provided by the local police and paramilitaries,” said the officer.