The encounter in Sukma last week, in which the CRPF’s COBRA Battalion 208 lost three personnel, was part of a planned security operation following information received about the movement senior Maoist cadres such as Ramanna, secretary of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, his wife Savitri, and Hidma, commander of PLGA Battalion 1.
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The operation, which lasted over a day, also left 13 CRPF men injured. According to senior officers involved in it, there were at least 15 Maoist casualties but they could not recover the bodies given the heavy fire.
The operation was based on information that PLGA Battalion 1, commandeered by Hidma, had shifted base to Tondamarka and Bade Kedwal. On February 27, there was additional information that Ramanna and Savitri would be camping near Tondamarka from March 2. “After a lull of three months, we had credible information about Hidma. Teams were mobilised on February 27, and the plan was to hit Ramanna at Dabbamarka on March 3, and Hidma at Bade Kedwal on March 4, as there was information that Ramanna was moving in that direction,” a senior CRPF official said. The team had 159 COBRA personnel, with 30 members of the state police DRG accompanying them.
On March 3, while the team was stationed in Dabbamarka, a sentry saw Maoist movement at 10.30 am, a senior officer said. Half an hour later, more movement was spotted and sub-inspector Rajveer Singh, designated to check movements, was shot in the chest. “Since his condition was serious, it was decided to evacuate him to Kishtaram, the nearest camp, 14 km away. The movement started, with Maoists on our tail. When we reached Potakpalli, the Maoists fired from huts, and one of our men was injured.”
As they moved towards Kishtaram, there was an ambush 700 metres away. “There was heavy gunfire, and our injured were put in a nala towards the left flank. Subsequently, led by Commandant P S Yadav, himself shot in the foot, COBRA teams began attacking the right flank, forcing the Maoists back. In the attempt to recover their bodies, Fateh Singh was shot at. When Leju N S attempted to drag the body of Singh back, he too was shot at. Yadav then told his team to let the bodies be. As night fell, we realised the team was on higher ground so they dug in, but the number of injured meant reinforcements had to be sent in. While the Maoists retreated, a UAV monitored their movements,” an officer said.
As The Indian Express reported Friday, 290 personnel were sent as reinforcement to Potakpalli, while 300 others remained on standby.
The next morning, Maoist teams began to encircle the CRPF party again, but there were orders to “not open fire till the Maoists reach within 25 yards in an open field. Under cover from the reinforcements, the teams then successfully made their way back to Kishtaram,” a senior officer said.
Commander P S Yadav told The Indian Express, “Ordinarily, making our way back to Kishtaram would not have been a problem. But given our injuries, coming back was a herculean task. But we were immensely successful in protecting our injured. Even in hospital, all of them are doing fine.”