Post-Sukma : CRPF to overhaul anti-Naxal operations in Bastar

NEW DELHI
27 Apr 2017

The CRPF is set to overhaul its anti-Naxal operations in the south Bastar region of Chhattisgarh in the aftermath of one of the biggest attacks on the force in the state on Monday and a fresh offensive is expected to be  launched soon. Twenty-five jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were slaughtered near Burkapal village of Sukma district in the ambush by Naxals on April 24 while 12 men of the para-military force were killed in an earlier attack near Bheji village in the same district on March 11. Two days after the Monday attack, the Centre is reported to have asked security forces on the ground to go on an "all- out offensive" against the Maoists and "show results in the next few weeks."  Acting Director General (DG) of the CRPF, Sudeep Lakhtakia said today that the latest attack has "naturally called for the revision of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)" in the naxal-hit areas. He said the force has decided to undertake new measures as it will continue to secure the road construction work that helps to bring development to the remote areas of central India. "We have decided to change the strategy. We have learnt some lessons. While I cannot go into the details, I can tell you that we will undertake re-deployment of our forces and will also enhance the quantity and quality of special counter-insurgency operations," Lakhtakia told PTI, a day after he visited the ambush site in Sukma's Burkapal. The force will have to ensure that the enemy does not attempt any surprises on it. "We track and engage them well before," he said. So, while half of the personnel will do road construction security and other similar tasks, the other half will do special counter-insurgency operations, the acting DG said. He said the new action plan of the force will be to effectively dominate the area. Lakhtakia, however, said in such operations where the troops have to be out in the open for long and the terrain is treacherous, the SOPs and strategies have to be "revised as and when required" and that is what they were doing. CRPF has deployed a total of 28 battalions in Chhattisgarh with ten of those in the Bastar region alone. A regular CRPF battalion comprises about 1,000 personnel. Lakhtakia said a preliminary analysis of the April 24 ambush spot indicated that the four sections of the CRPF men were separated by a distance of about 600-750 metres with bullets flying around. "The Naxals were tracking the troops... They attacked the men after deciding the time and place of the attack. They used human shields of local villagers," he said, adding apparently the personnel were having their lunch when the first assault took place. "The sequence of the events will take some time to construct... An inquiry is already in progress and that will tell us more," he said. Establishing if any violation of SOPs took place or any other lapses occurred will only come up after the inquiry is completed, he said. Lakhtakia said the reports of possible mutilation of bodies of some jawans is yet to be ascertained. Senior officials engaged in anti-Naxal fight, meanwhile, said some special operations, under the command of the elite jungle warfare unit of the CRPF -- CoBRA -- will soon be launched in the south Bastar region including Sukma, Dantewada, Kondagaon, Bijapur and Jagdalpur areas. The troops will be serviced with a dedicated air support of at least four choppers based in the vicinity of these areas and a fleet of three Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The UAVs undertake long haul sorties from their base in Bhilai in the state over the forests of Bastar and around the southern tip of the state that borders Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.(PTI)