India takes aim at Maoists after deadly jungle ambush

Special India takes aim at Maoists after deadly jungle ambush
A paramilitary soldier injured in a gun battle with Maoist guerrillas on Saturday is brought for treatment to a hospital in Raipur, India, Sunday. (AP)
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Updated 06 April 2021

India takes aim at Maoists after deadly jungle ambush

India takes aim at Maoists after deadly jungle ambush
  • Home minister says fight against left-wing extremists will be intensified

NEW DELHI: India has said that it will step up its fight against Maoist guerrillas two days after left-wing extremists killed 23 security personnel in the jungles of the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

In one of the deadliest attacks in years, Naxals, or Maoists, ambushed a combined central and state security agency force as government troops hunted for extremists.

The attack left 23 personnel dead and 30 wounded, while media reports say that about 27 Naxals were also killed in an encounter that lasted more than four hours.

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said on Monday that the fight against Maoists will be intensified in the coming days.

“The lives of the security personnel will not be wasted,” he told a press conference in the Jagdalpur district of the state after paying tributes to the victims.

“In the past five or six years many security camps have been opened in Maoist areas in Chhattisgarh. This attack is a result of their desperation,” Shah said, adding that “the action against the extremists will take a decisive turn.”

In 2010, left-wing insurgents killed 76 paramilitary personnel belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the state police force in Chhattisgarh. In 2013, 25 CRPF personnel were gunned down in the Sukma area of the state.

Security analysts believe that most of the losses are due to “negligence” on the part of the security forces.

“These attacks are periodic and there is some degree of negligence on the part of forces which exposes them to such high fatality attacks. There must the failure to follow the protocol procedures, too,” Ajay Sahni, New Delhi-based director of the Institute of Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal think tank, told Arab News.

However, the CRPF denied intelligence failures.

“Had it been some intelligence failure, forces would have not gone for the operation. And if there was some operational failure, so many Maoists would not have been killed,” a spokesperson said on Sunday.

Naxals have been active in India since the 1960s and believe in capturing power through violent intervention. They gained a foothold in tribal-dominated forest areas that still remain at the margin of development decades after the country’s independence.

In 2010, the movement was active in 223 districts out of 718 in India. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 called the left insurgency the biggest security challenge facing the country.

Since 2010 the government has carried out special operations against the guerrillas. Paramilitary forces began opening camps in Maoist areas and strengthened ties with tribal leaders through a range of community initiatives.

Chhattisgarh-based political activist Gautam Bandyopadhyay has called for a “deepening of democracy” to counter the Maoist threat.

“We have to understand why it is happening and how we can reduce the conflict. The state should make an effort to devise a participatory governance to improve people’s lives. They should deepen democracy,” he said.

New Delhi-based political analyst Rajbala Rana, of the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analyzes, said that the Maoists should hold talks with the government.

“The best approach would be to encourage dialogue to reduce the violence,” Rana told Arab News.

“Unfortunately, the Maoists have never shown sincerity in talks and the government is left with no option but to mount security operations to limit the power of the armed group,” Rana said, adding that the threat “is both a security issue and a sociopolitical problem, and we have to address this subject accordingly.”