The killing of 14 security men in one week has put the focus back on Chhattisgarh, where a large number of security personnel have lost their lives to the Maoist insurgency. Meanwhile, the State police department continues to remain a divided house.
After the Sukma killing, Bastar range Inspector General of Police S.R. Kalluri said that the operation should not have been undertaken “in his absence, without informing the local SP and without any back-up”. However, the Additional Director General of Police in charge of the STF, R.K. Vij, touted it as “among the greatest battles” his men had fought, even though his men failed to even carry back the bodies of their colleagues. It took more than 24 hours to retrieve the dead.
This is not the first time for the blame game. Many senior officers are not on talking terms with each other and the department is divided into lobbies. “Lobbies were there during my time too, but I didn’t allow them to affect my work. It is different now,” said former Chhattisgarh DGP Vishvaranjan, who adds that “interference by political bosses” has made the police “unprofessional”. The lack of professionalism was seen last year when the most senior officer Mr. Giridhari Nayak was denied the post of DGP despite being known as an honest officer and a Naxal expert. Besides internal differences, there is hostility between the State police and the CRPF as well. To make matters worse, there is only one officer in charge of three anti-Maoist units.
Analysis shows that all three incidents in Chhattisgarh occurred because the security personnel bypassed Standard Operating Procedures. “The Sukma and Dantewada attacks were gift-wrapped for the Maoists,” said an officer posted in Bastar. In Sukma, the STF acted on its own, with the department clueless about who ordered the operation, while in Dantewada, the team of 12 policemen moved without any backup or a Road Opening Party, becoming easy targets for the Maoists.
Over the last years, the State police and the CRPF have opened many camps in the interiors of Bastar, resulting in effectively curbing Maoist movement in these areas. The government claims that more than 400 Maoists surrendered last year, but Bastar villagers allege that many of them were “coerced” into declaring they were Maoists.
The Maoists admit that their cadres are deserting them, but claim that “only those who lack genuine concern” for the movement are leaving.