Updated: October 21, 2015 8:21:29 am
Adding a new dimension to anti-Maoist operations in Bastar, Chhattisgarh Police and the Indian Air Force (IAF) plan to carry out attacks from air “in retaliation”. The state police and the IAF have already conducted successful exercises in Bastar.
Additional DG (anti-Naxal operations) R K Vij told The Indian Express: “Maoists have often fired at Mi-17s (helicopters). We have lost personnel and people, but we have never retaliated. The law has never stopped us from retaliation. We have conducted exercises. Garud commandos of the Indian Air Force practised firing from Mi-17. We are not sitting ducks, we can also attack them. It will help us handle the situation better.”
While the official statement is that the IAF will attack only in retaliation or self-defence, it gives enormous edge to security forces battling the Maoists.
IAF officers in Chhattisgarh confirmed the change in strategy.
The IAF has been operating Mi-17s in the Bastar region for several years. The Maoists have been able to hit these helicopters quite often. So far, the state establishment and the IAF had been against air strikes.
“To counter this situation (Maoist attack on helicopters), senior officers of Chhattisgarh police and IAF held a joint meeting and formulated a strategy. As part of this strategy, exercises were conducted in remote areas of Bijapur,” Vij said.
Maoists have large bases in Bijapur as they dominate vast area across this district of southwest Bastar.
“On October 13, three IAF helicopters flew over a specified area of Bijapur and practised strafing. Senior officers of the IAF and anti-Naxal operations of the state police participated in the exercise,” Vij said.
Over the last four years, IAF officers in Chhattisgarh have repeatedly told The Indian Express that they would never retaliate with an aerial attack on their “own people”.
Last year, the state police sought more helicopters but the government said they could not be used for air attacks.
“No. Not at all. I categorically deny this,” Chief Minister Raman Singh had said when he was asked about the possibility of aerial attacks on Maoists.
In 2013, the Maoists fired at a Mi-17 and grounded it in the Chintagufa area, forcing the personnel inside to abandon it and get to safety. It remained in the forests for a few days until it was retrieved by engineers.
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