The twin IED blasts in Bastar on Saturday, security forces believe, were made possible by the support of road contractors and locals.
The IEDs were laid at least 4 feet deep into the ground and could only have been buried in when the road was being laid several months ago. “Such IEDs are planted months, years ago when roads are being constructed. It’s not possible without the support of locals and those involved in road construction,” Bastar IG AD Gautam told The Indian Express. “The contractor himself might be involved, but it needs to be established by a probe.”
The disappointment among the CRPF, which lost five men in Saturday’s attacks, was visible at the spot in Darbha Saturday. As NIA and Chhattisgarh Police teams inspected the area, the force’s specialised Bomb Disposal Squad searched for hidden landmines. “Saanp chala gaya, lakeer peet rahe hain (The snake has slithered away, we are just beating around the bush),” a senior member of the squad said.
As he and his colleagues scanned the earth with sophisticated DHMD (Deep Handling Metal Detectors), the 50-year-old, who joined the squad after retirement from the Army, noted: “The DHMD would not work here at all. It can spot a mine at most at one-and-a-half-feet, that too on ground, not on a tar road… If explosives are well-packed and buried, even sniffers dogs cannot detect them.”
Repeating what Gautam said, he added: “Such IEDs cannot be planted without the help of the constructor and labourers, and hence such casualties can never be prevented without the support of locals.”
Gautam noted that such ambushes are the easiest to execute. A local informs about an approaching police team, and with IEDs already existing at crucial points, all one needs is to stretch its wire by a hundred metres. The task can be accomplished even by helpful villagers within minutes.
Gautam added that while they had seized many of these IEDs from across Bastar, many remain. “It’s very difficult to detect them. Such IEDs make forces extremely vulnerable, they are the biggest killers… Unless we win over the local people, this war cannot be won.”
Shiksha Karmis (teachers), an ambulance driver and a technician were among the nine civilians killed in Saturday’s attacks, which belied the repeated claims of Maoists that they never harm innocents. Just last week, CPI (Maoist) spokesperson Abhay had issued a long statement to the media, saying: “When weapons like IEDs are planted with the aim of inflicting damages to the enemy forces, any methods that have the possibility of causing damage to the people and those who are not directly participating in the war, like employees in civil administration, medical personnel and civilians, should be avoided.”
The mini-bus that was blown up on Saturday was carrying only teachers and others officiating as poll personnel, with no policeman present. In the other blast, an ambulance was targeted, the first ever such incidence.
The CRPF has drawn flak for using the medical vehicle. While the Chhattisgarh government has admitted to the “lapse” by the CRPF personnel in taking a lift in the ambulance, Chief Secretary Vivek Dhand noted that the men were tired after long poll duty. “This should be seen from a human perspective,” Dhand said.