In an unprecedented action, the CRPF has sought the “immediate dismissal from service” of two BSF pilots, blaming their “deliberate and intentional misconduct” for the Maoist attack in Kasalpad village of Sukma on December 1, in which the CRPF lost 14 of its personnel — its highest single-day casualty in the last four years.
In a letter sent to the CRPF headquarters in New Delhi on December 7, Chhattisgarh’s CRPF IG H S Siddhu has said that a day before the attack, he had repeatedly requested the pilot, Ajay Rama Krishnan, and co-pilot, Bhupinder Kumar, to evacuate eight of his men suffering from malaria, but they did not comply.
Siddhu wrote that the attack could have been averted if the personnel had been evacuated on November 30. On December 1, the CRPF personnel had to spend time sanitising a new “helipad” in Kasalpad village, “exposing the entire party to a grave attack by Naxals”, said the letter, which has been accessed by The Indian Express. “Their (pilots’) inaction amounts to a major failure and was unfortunate and deplorable,” wrote Siddhu.
While Kumar refused to comment, Krishnan could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
This is the first time that a top officer of a paramilitary force in Chhattisgarh has blamed officers of another central force for a Maoist attack and sought their “immediate dismissal”.
According to Siddhu’s letter, Krishnan was informed on November 29 that the personnel needed to be evacuated, and was requested “to remain ready in the early morning of November 30.” On November 30, the CRPF officers “made many efforts but Captain Ajay Rama Krishnan did not attend to his phone,” wrote Sidhu, adding that the “telephone numbers of these persons are well known to each other”.
The CRPF then reportedly contacted Kumar and told him to keep the helicopter ready for evacuation. Having sanitised an area, the CRPF called up Kumar again at 11.45 am, and “requested (him) to take off (at the) earliest in view of serious condition of the patients,” wrote Siddhu. Kumar handed over the phone to Krishnan, who reportedly informed that he would “not be able to take off without clearance of flight plan.”
Siddhu noted that though the flight plan had already been communicated, Krishnan “stated that for new places, he required to first have a trial landing.”
“This came as a shock”, wrote Siddhu, “since over many years of work, pilots have undertaken emergency casualty/ medical evacuation from new helipads.”
Krishnan later flew the chopper, but “did not come over the prepared helipad” in the forest and “deliberately remained away from that area” before “turning back towards Jagdalpur”, according to Siddhu’s letter.
“The radio operator of the helicopter stated that the pilot refused to land,” wrote Siddhu, adding that it “caused disappointment to troops and exposed them to avoidable extra work of sanitisation.”
Stating that the personnel had “to move a distance of 20 km on foot”, after the failed evacuation, the letter said: “Because of this failure, the whole exercise had to be repeated on December 1, causing extreme inconvenience to troops and patients, apart from exposing the entire party to a very grave attack by Naxals on December 1.”
Siddhu claimed they were forced to consider Kasalpad village for a fresh landing ground, and the attack could have been averted if the troops had not spent time in sanitising a “helipad” around the village. Earlier, the CRPF had said that its Kasalpad unit had been “isolated” from the main party and spent considerable time in the village, making the forces vulnerable.
The Maoists, who were trailing the CRPF for three days, encircled the troops on the outskirts of the village and killed 12 of them in the first burst of fire, besides looting a huge cache of weapons including several Under Barrel Grenade Launchers.
The BSF and IAF helicopters are stationed at Jagdalpur and make sorties at the request of forces for transporting ration, personnel or rescue purposes.