Did Sukma SP ignore SOP before Tuesday's Red strike?
The CRPF, which has intensified operations against the Maoists in the past few months, lost nine men on Tuesday afternoon when the rebels blew up a mine-protected vehicle (MPV) carrying jawans of the 212th battalion. It has now emerged that CRPF personnel had a run-in with Nagesh-led men from People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) barely a few hours earlier on Tuesday.
Based on a specific information that dreaded Maoist military commander Nagesh along with 50-60 cadres had camped near Kistaram, six teams of 208th CoBRA battalion of CRPF left the camps at Kistaram and Palodi, set up recently for operations against the Maoists, around 6.30am.
After travelling nearly 4km, they came under attack from the Nagesh-led group which had around 110 cadres. The CoBRA teams forced the Maoists to retreat, after which one team returned to Kistaram camp while five went to Palodi camp.
Sukma SP Abhishek Meena, who was in Kistaram, had planned to visit Potakpalli to select a site for a new joint camp. Keeping in mind the intelligence inputs and ambush on the CoBRA teams, Meena was advised against going to Potakpalli which is further inside the jungle, sources said. "We were anticipating an attack since there was one in the morning. CRPF had backed out to carry out more operations during the day. However, the SP decided to go ahead with his plan," said a senior MHA official, requesting anonymity.
According to sources, Meena agreed not to travel to Potakpalli but "insisted" on going to Palodi camp, where some construction work was still on. Around 11.30 am, Meena left alongwith with deputy commandant of CoBRA battalion and 100-120 jawans of District Reserve Guard and STF of Chhattisgarh Police. While Meena, deputy commandant of CoBRA battalion and a few others used bikes, other jawans travelled on foot on the Kistaram-Palodi road.
After a while, CRPF sent two MPVs with around 40 jawans. Maoists trigged an IED blast around 12.30pm as soon as the first MPV tried to cross the spot where the CoBRA personnel were ambushed in the morning, the official said.
Meena did not respond to TOI's phone-calls or text messages. Inspector General of Bastar Range Vivekanand said: "Yes, our SP was advised against going to place 'A', which he adhered to. He went to place 'B' which is a secured camp."
Asked if it was wise on the SP's part to travel hours after an ambush on CRPF personnel, Vivekanand said: "DIG STF was already out. The route was clear. He moved only after he got the clearance."