In the first major operation after the new Congress government assumed power in Chhattisgarh, ten Maoists were killed and at least eleven weapons recovered after an encounter in Bijapur district. Senior police officials said the alleged Maoists are yet to be identified as the firefight took place deep inside the forests of Abhujhmaad, and that police teams were still returning to the camp.
State DGP D M Awasthi said that “two to three days ago”, the state intelligence unit had received inputs of the presence of a Maoist training camp in Abhujhmaad, around 30 km from the town of Bhairamgarh. He said that according to inputs, the training module was being led by Divisional Commander Rajman Mandavi and commander Sukhlal.
“We received information that around 40 to 50 Maoists were present at the spot, which is close to the villages of Talibod and Bhorga,” he said.
This is the first big encounter under the Congress government that took over in December. Data from 2016 to 2018, released by the Anti-Naxal Operations wing, show a dip in encounters from 2017 to 2018, but an increase in alleged Maoists killed, surrendered and arrested, and an increase in the number of civilians killed in the conflict.
According to the police, a combined team of the Chhattisgarh Police’s District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Special Task Force, with a total of close to 200 personnel, then launched an operation late Wednesday night.
“On Thursday morning, there was an intense exchange of fire. The major bursts of firing took place twice, with intermittent firing in between. In all, the exchange of fire listed about two-and-a-half hours. After the firing ended, a search of the area revealed ten Maoist bodies and eleven weapons,” he said.
“The weapons are ten bharmars, and one 315 revolver, amidst other supplies. More details will emerge only after the parties return to the camps. There were also IED’s that were used against our forces, but there have been no injuries or casualties.”
Awasthi also said that the spot of the encounter was in “difficult terrain” in Abhujhmaad, across the Indravati river, which acts as a natural boundary. The word Abhujhmaad literally means the “hills of the unknown” in Gondi and is a densely forested area close to 4000 sq kilometres, that is still largely unmapped and out of government reach, and is considered the bastion of Maoists.
Awasthi said that Superintendent of Police, Bijapur, Mohit Garg had been stationed at Bhairamgarh, and another team was sent to the area to ensure the safe exit of the DRG and STF teams that were returning from the operation.