The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) confirmed the death of a jawan from the elite 204 CoBRA battalion in Chhattisgarh's restive Bastar district. “Constable driver Kanhaiyalal Yadav's headless body was found 10 km from Jagdalpur,” said CRPF Inspector-General A. Ponnuswamy.

“We have lodged a complaint with the police and investigations are under way,” he said.

While senior officers in the CRPF refused to divulge further information, informed sources told The Hindu that the district police received a phone call informing them of a body in the jungle near Bakawand on the Jagdalpur–Mazgaon road. “As the head is still missing, the body was identified by the CRPF identity card found on it,” said the source.

Just returned from leave, constable Yadav was travelling to Mazgaon to rejoin his unit when he was attacked. While investigations are under way, sources in the CRPF believe that cadres from the CPI (Maoist) carried out the attack.

“According to my information, Yadav was travelling in a civilian bus last night [August 14], when the Maoists stopped the vehicle,” said a senior CRPF officer. “Passengers were asked to alight and were thoroughly frisked. They [Maoists] must have found his identity card and killed him.”

The Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) is an elite CRPF unit tasked with conducting anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh. The first CoBRA battalions were raised in 2008 in Chhattisgarh and Orissa and are considered to be younger, fitter and better adjusted to the demands of jungle warfare.

In September 2009, the CoBRAs conducted their most high-profile and controversial operation in which they claimed to have killed 12 Maoist fighters and destroyed a Maoist arms factory at Singanamadagu village in Dantewada district's Konta block. Six soldiers were also killed in the attack. Subsequent investigations by The Hindu have cast doubts over the identities of those passed off as Maoists.

Keywords: CRPFCoBRA battalion