After killing 22 police officers in an ambush over the weekend, Indian security forces have stepped up operations against ultra-leftist guerrillas, a top police officer said on Monday.
In the four-hour gun battle with Maoist rebels that took place in Chhattisgarh state on Saturday, at least 30 other security forces members were injured, making it the deadliest attack of its kind in four years.
“The operation will be intensified,” said Om Prakash Pal, Deputy Inspector-General of police, who is leading the fight against the rebels in Chhattisgarh.
Who are the rebels, and what do they want?
For decades, the Maoists, also known as Naxals, have fought government forces in armed conflict.
They claim to be fighting for India’s people, who have been left behind by the country’s economic growth.
According to a government website, Chhattisgarh, one of India’s fastest-developing states, has 28 different types of major minerals, including diamonds and gold.
It also holds 16 percent of India’s coal reserves and major iron ore and bauxite reserves.
The Maoists, who are considered India’s most significant internal security threat, operate in mineral-rich territory in the country’s east and south known as the “red corridor,” which has shrunk in recent years due to strong operations against them.
The pandemic is gaining traction
Uddipan Mukherjee, a joint director for the government’s Ordnance Factory Board who has been following the Maoists’ war strategy for over a decade, said the pandemic had helped the insurgency to recruit more members.
Others with firsthand experience concurred.
“We have intelligence reports that the Maoist leaders during the pandemic have managed to recruit hundreds of new foot soldiers, including women, living in the forests who leak details about security force patrols,” a New Delhi-based bureaucrat who oversees country’s internal security said.
Latest terrorist attacks
A police raiding party in Chattisgarh’s Bijapur district was targeted last week by about 400 guerrillas armed with grenades and automatic rifles.
According to Mr Pal, the rebels sustained casualties as well, and local media claimed that drone surveillance showed them carrying bodies away.
“They are definitely trying to strengthen themselves but the forces put a lot of pressure on them,” Mr Pal told reporters.
“Now they are confined only to very few pockets. In their core area they are shrinking very fast.”
He also said that security forces were stepping up their intelligence gathering efforts.
Police forces, according to security analysts, needed to be better prepared to deal with guerrillas, who were frequently as well armed as the cops.
According to Mr Pal, the Maoists used AK-47 assault rifles, rocket launchers, and under-barrel grenade launchers in the most recent encounter.
“The government will leave no stone unturned to provide you with the best facilities,” India’s Home Minister Amit Shah said in a speech to security forces in Chhattisgarh on Monday.
After paying tribute to the fallen security forces and visiting a hospital to meet the wounded, Mr Shah vowed to put an end to the “Maoist menace.”
“The government will not tolerate such bloodshed and a befitting response will be given,” Mr Shah said.
“We will put an end to the ongoing battle with Maoists.”
On the condition of anonymity, a close aide to Mr Shah said he met with top security officials in the state to “realign strategy” to dismantle the nexus operated by Maoist leaders.
Source: ABC World News