At least eight Maoists, including six women, were killed in a joint operation Friday led by the Greyhounds, Telangana’s elite anti-Naxal unit, and aided by the Chhattisgarh police and the CRPF in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh. While no police casualties were reported, the operation comes just days after 39 Maoists were killed in Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, which borders Bijapur.
Senior police officials told The Indian Express that the operation was launched on Monday based on specific intelligence. The Greyhounds were operationalised from Venkatpuram, while the CRPF and the Chhattisgarh Police were sent from camps in Usoor and Avapalli in South Bijapur.
D M Awasthi, Special DG Anti-Naxal Operations Chhattisgarh said, “The forces, from Telangana, and Chhattisgarh were sent out for the operation on Monday. After four days there was an exchange of fire lasting close to two hours which began around 6 am on Friday. The encounter spot is 13 km from Ilmidi police station on a very remote hillock which was thus far considered a safe zone for Maoists.”
Police said eight bodies were recovered by security personnel, with Awasthi adding that “they may have been more deaths or injuries to the Maoists.” And while no identification has been completed so far, officials said that the cache of weapons recovered indicates that those killed may have been senior cadre. “The weapons recovered include four 12-bore rifles, one single barrel rifle, one SLR, three hand grenades and six rocket launchers. This indicates the presence of senior cadre,” Awasthi said.
According to sources in the Chhattisgarh Police, the intelligence they received was about the presence of senior Maoist commanders Haribhushan and Damodar being in the area. They, however, added that neither was among the bodies that had been recovered. Damodar, also known as Bade Chokka Rao operates in the area and is the senior leader in charge of the Karimnagar-Khammam-Warangal zone in Telangana. Like Damodar, Haribhushan too is on the NIA watchlist and is the Telangana state secretary.
In March this year, 10 Maoists were killed in another Greyhound led operation in Bijapur’s Pujarikanker area, and while initial reports had at the time suggested that Haribhushan may be among those killed, police later confirmed that he had escaped.
Officials also said that the Greyhounds were primarily involved in the operation as the hillock was easily accessible from the Telangana side. “It was the Greyhounds team that had the exchange of fire, while the Chhattisgarh Police and the CRPF were at cut-off points. After the operation was over, Air Force choppers were involved in bringing out the bodies of the dead Maoists to Bijapur,” Awasthi said.
Sources also said that the intelligence sharing and joint operation came after a meeting of senior Chhattisgarh and Telangana police officials on Monday, after which the operation was launched. They said that the need for joint operations and cooperation were discussed between the police top brass, specifically those concerned with anti-Naxal operations from both states. The jungles along the border of Maoist affected states such as Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Telangana are often used as hideouts by Maoists.