75 Maoists killed in 4 months: How Home Minister Amit Shah's 'Red Review' is shaping the anti-Naxal offensive

In January this year, at a security review meeting in Chhattisgarh, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told top officials of the Security Grid Intelligence Group that a detailed roadmap for anti-Maoist operations should be prepared by all stakeholders immediately. Should. It gave the security grid three years to clear the remaining pockets of Chhattisgarh of Maoists.

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Four months later, the Border Security Force (BSF) developed a specific intelligence input into actionable input and killed 29 Maoists in Kankir on Tuesday. Shankar Rao, who had a reward of Rs 2.5 lakh, and Lalitha were among the evicted. Initial assessments indicate that the entire Company 4 of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) Battalion 1 has been eliminated or disabled. This is the highest number of Maoists killed in a single operation.

What also makes this operation significant is that it was a well-coordinated operation between the BSF and the District Reserve Guard (DRG) of the Chhattisgarh Police in which the forces suffered no casualties.

Focus on intelligence gathering.

“Intelligence gathering is now a focus area. As more camps are opening and forces are entering hitherto untouched forests, information is also coming in more frequently than before,” said a senior Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) official. told CNN-News18.


Shah's instructions soon translated into the formation of a high-powered committee, comprising the state director general of police (DGP), the director general (DG) of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the BSF. , Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Intelligence. Bureau (IB) and other officers of the Anti-Maoist Grid as its members. The Home Secretary reviewed the committee's work as it set real-time operational targets, timelines and specific responsibilities.

A CRPF official told News18, “Coordination between state and central forces has now improved,” adding that regular monitoring of targets set at the level of the Union home minister and state chief minister. has also given new impetus to anti-Maoist activities. .

News18 has learned that ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and Director IB Tapan Deka held a second review meeting with the Anti-Maoist Grid, where intelligence gathering was specifically discussed.

Also Read | 80 naxalites killed in Chhattisgarh after BJP came to power: Amit Shah on Kankir encounter

Shah also emphasized the need to review all inputs shared by the IB's multi-agency center and activate verified inputs. Actions taken in Kankar on April 16 and Bijapur on April 2 yielded results, when 13 Maoists of the PLGA Second Company were killed.

New campuses

Central forces have set up 20 camps in the Sukma-Bijapur region between December 2023 and April 2024. BSF has established three new camps in Kankir and taken over five others from ITBP. Officials say this has reduced operational risks for parties who often travel on foot and are targeted by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and snipers. “Opening a camp in the Maoist area means the operational distance has been reduced significantly. We now travel at least 20 km less on foot. This makes launching operations faster and less risky,” Raipur said. A police officer explained.

Official assessments show that Maoist dominance in Bastar is now limited to a 20 km x 20 km area spread over South Bijapur and West Sukma. Camps in hardline areas like Powarti and Elmagunda have not only reduced the Maoists' operational area but also cut off their traditional escape routes, officials said. Powarti is the village of Hadma, the dreaded Maoist commander of Battalion 1.

Carrot and stick

While the home minister directed the forces to intensify operations, the state government was also asked to fill the development gap. “The Union Home Minister stressed the need for use of security force camps to ensure saturation coverage of Central and State Government schemes in Left-wing extremism-affected districts and the benefits of these schemes in nearby villages. He mentioned that MHA should be flexible both in allotment of funds and its utilization in LWE affected districts of Chhattisgarh. They need to deal proactively and sensitively with all the local grievances related to the beneficial owners also shed light on,” said an MHA spokesperson.

Instructions were also given to ensure speedy investigation and legal action in cases related to Maoists. According to officials, Shah, in his review meeting, directed the state police to fill the remaining security gaps, ensure comprehensive investigations, closely monitor legal proceedings, stop financial flows and lead intelligence. Continue operations.

75 Maoists were killed.

The total number of Maoists killed this year after the Kankir encounter is 75. In 2023, 22 Maoists were killed in the entire year. While India lost 30 policemen during anti-Maoist operations in 2023, the death toll this year is only seven so far.

A senior MHA official explained that specific steps have been taken to reduce casualties. The deep penetration of the camps means that it is possible to stay in the forest at night and not risk an ambush after sunset. Proper sanitation, checking of planted IEDs and landmines are also better implemented now,” the officer added.

Also Read | Crackdown on more camps, arms and better roads: Decoding govt, forces' 5-point strategy to end red menace

Comparative figures suggest that in 2024, the security grid could exceed the total number of Maoists killed in the previous five years. In 2019, 80 Maoists were eliminated, while the 2024 figure is likely to surpass this figure. 30 Maoists were killed in 2022 and 46 in 2021.

While Shah has set a three-year target to end Naxalism, senior paramilitary officials who spoke to News18 said 2024 itself could be a decisive year for India's anti-Maoist operations.

AronimaArunima is Editor (Home Affairs) and covers strategic, security and political issues… Read more

First Publication: 18 April 2024, 08:00 IST

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