Complacency appears to have given the Maoists away

A view of the impregnable jungle in the Chitrakonda area where the encounter occurred.— PHOTO: C.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

A view of the impregnable jungle in the Chitrakonda area where the encounter occurred.— PHOTO: C.V. SUBRAHMANYAM  

Way back on June 29, 2008, about 64 police personnel, including 60 from the elite anti-naxal force of Andhra Pradesh, the Greyhounds, deviated from the standard operating procedures to board a launch to cross the Balimela reservoir to get to the Andhra side from Odisha.

They were returning to their base camp after a three-day combing operation against the Maoists in the hilly terrains of the cut-off area in the Andhra Odisha Border (AOB) region. They were tired and reportedly took the short-cut out of complacency. They were caught off-guard when the Maoists opened fire from a hillock while the launch was midway. About 38 personnel died, including 32 Greyhounds. This was a major setback to the police force, especially the Greyhounds.

Complacency and fatigue on part of the Greyhounds, and planning and the use of ‘element of surprise’ on part of the Maoists did the Greyhounds in on that day, said a former OSD of Greyhounds.

But history repeats, and the killing of 24 Maoists by the Greyhounds on Monday near Panasput and Ramgarh village in the cut-off area in Malkangiri district, is again being attributed to complacency on the part of Maoists and planning and surprise by the security forces.

Stronghold and

harsh terrain

The area where the Maoists were killed in the exchange of fire on Monday is considered to be the stronghold of the Left Wing Extremists (LWE). It is considered it to be impregnable and a number of plenary sessions and meetings were held in that area earlier.

The area is one among the densest forest area in the Eastern Ghats and the nearest ‘kuccha’ motor-able road ends about 25 km away, on the Andhra side. One has to trek through the hillocks and dense forest for about 25 km to reach the spot.

It is not only covered with thick forest, but also the terrain is marshy and covered with tall elephant grass and ‘nalas’ which are not visible at times due to the thick undergrowth. At times the visibility drops beyond two metres, said a Greyhound Commando, who participated in an earlier combing operation in that area.

“It was in one of these ‘nalas’ that the Greyhound Commando Md. Abubakar fell and drowned to death during Monday’s operation. It is so deep that the weapon is yet to be recovered and we are engaging a diver to recover it,” said a senior police officer.

The entry into that area from the Odisha side is ruled out, as they have to cross the Balimela reservoir and they can be sitting ducks to the Moaists sentries and snipers.

The terrain advantage and the difficulty in its penetration, appears to have given the Maoists a sense of complacency, and they did bother to put up a regular patrol, which they normally do during an important camp, especially when top leaders are present. And that appears to have become the biggest advantage for the Greyhound units. Even before the lone sentry could fire and alert the sleeping cadres, the Greyhounds strike force launched heavy fire from three sides.

It is learnt that the lone Maoist sentry realised the movement of the Greyhounds late and opened fire, but it was too late. The retaliation was weak and the Maoists were caught off guard.

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