By A Special Correspondent
Territorially, Gadchiroli falls in Maharashtra but it is at the tri-junction of the state with Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Such areas are more prone to activities of Naxals for the ease they offer them to slip into different states. The day the ultras struck was special for them – one year ago the security forces had gunned down 40 Maoists in the area and they were yearning for revenge. They chose the Maharashtra Foundation Day to send out the message that they were not a spent force.
But it is difficult to understand how the security forces fell into their trap and how intelligence failed. The forces claim to have infiltrated the ranks of ultras and have detailed information about their movements. Then how could they not sense that the burning of about three dozen vehicles of a road contractor was a ploy to seek a retaliatory attack from the forces? How could they not infer that any team going for the attack would itself be a target? Why was a road opening team not deployed to see if traps were set by the Naxals? How could the security forces so blindly swallow the bait set by the Maoists?
The tragic incident raises many questions about the way intelligence is gathered and the standard operating procedure followed in such cases. It also puts the spotlight on a force fighting a guerilla war with dedicated Maoists without proper equipment and infrastructure support. Sending a team blindly cannot be the standard operating procedure under any circumstance. If vehicles of a road construction company were torched, it would have immediately raised suspicion that any retaliatory action would be targeted by the ultras. Hence, there was a need to be extra careful and call their bluff. Alas, that was not to be and 15 security personnel lost their lives and several vehicles were blown to smithereens.
This would once more put the fear of the Maoists in the heart of the local population. Years of good work to bring normalcy in the area has been washed away by this single gory incident. The administration will now have to take several hard decisions. They will have to provide the latest equipment to the forces including unmanned pilot vehicles and drones for surveillance. They will have to open more police outposts to ensure security for the people. Intelligence gathering channels will have to be reinvigorated and strengthened. Development in the area must be fast-tracked. That is the only way to defeat the ultras. If people know that the government is doing all it can to better their lives, they will avoid the ultras and support the authorities.