Blood stains, spent shells, mismatched shoes and swatches of discarded camouflage gear still litter the wide field 3 km from Chintalnar village in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district where Maoist rebels killed 76 personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force's 62nd Battalion. At the battalion's campsite, jawans barricaded the entrance with concertina wire and refused to speak with the press.
Indian Air Force helicopters buzzed overhead, bringing in fresh troops and supplies to assist the besieged camp.
While information regarding the exact chronology of Tuesday's attack is still unclear, in a press conference in Jagdalpur, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram reeled out a sequence of events slightly at odds with reports carried by The Hindu on Tuesday.
Unlike previously reported, Tuesday's mission was conducted entirely by the CRPF with only one accompanying head constable from the Chhattisgarh police. However, the operation was jointly planned by the police and the CRPF, which resulted in the initial confusion regarding the nature of the so-called “joint-operation.”
Of the 82 CRPF men who went on the original mission, 75 were killed and seven injured.
While a high-ranking police officer based in Raipur told The Hindu that an additional 40 men from the Chhattisgarh police had accompanied the force into the forest, he appeared to have been confused by the additional troops sent as reinforcements.
Only one APC blown up
Further, only one Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) was blown up (and the driver killed, pushing the toll to 76) while attempting to rescue the injured, not two vehicles as reported.
This latest account is based on eye-witness accounts obtained from villagers in Chintalnar and inputs from the CRPF.
According to our sources, in the days preceding the attack two companies of the 62nd battalion were based in the camp in Chintalnar. While one company held the camp, the other was involved in a three-day patrol operation in the Mukrana forests adjoining the camp. The attack occurred about 4 km from the village at 6 a.m., when the patrol was returning to the base camp.