The run-up to this year’s Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh is turning out to be bloodier than the 2013 polls. In the past two weeks alone, Maoist have mounted three attacks, which have led to deaths of seven security personnel and five civilians. In 2013, through September, October and November (when the elections were held), deaths of nine security personnel were reported.
According to data available with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in 2013, during the months of October and November, 76 attacks were launched by Maoists in which nine civilians and eight security personnel died. In 2018, in the last 39 days — October 1 to November 8 — 107 attacks have already been reported, leading to deaths of 11 civilians and eight security personnel.
The polls in Chhattisgarh are scheduled to be held in two phases, on November 12 and November 20. The security establishment fears there would be more attacks till the polls are over.
Sources said this was expected since there is intelligence input of the Maoist leadership putting extra pressure on the cadres to “show results” in the run-up to the elections.
“The Maoists’ TCOC (Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign) this year has largely passed peacefully. They have not been able to mount a big attack. They are being aggressive now. It is visible in the deaths of civilians and media personnel. We have reports of villagers being threatened with chopping of hands and fingers if they go out to vote. Earlier, Maoists would ask people not to vote but would not warn them of such brutal consequences,” a security establishment officer said.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the largest force engaged in the battle against Maoists across the country, has also reported high recoveries of IEDs and spikes this year. Iron spikes are used by Maoists to prevent security personnel from carrying out cross-country patrols.
In October, the CRPF recovered 21 IEDs planted under roads and trails across the Maoist-affected districts of Chhattisgarh. This is more than double the recoveries made in September. The most preferred weapon this poll season, however, appears to be spikes that pierce through the shoes of security personnel. The CRPF has recovered 245 spikes in October in the state. This is almost six times the recoveries made in September.
“The Maoists have changed tactics for these elections. They are not looking at launching spectacular attacks led by 100-200 Maoists. Rather, we are witnessing small surgical strikes led by a contingent of 15-20 Maoist cadres who explode an IED followed by gunfire. This tactic is giving them stealth as their movement is hard to spot on the radar. Also, they are able to launch multiple attacks in a short span of time, giving them more media coverage,” a CRPF officer said.
Among the key attacks in the past couple of weeks are the October 27 attack in Bijapur, where four CRPF men were killed when a mobile bunker they were travelling in was blown up by Maoists using an IED. Three days later, a DD cameraperson and two Chhattisgarh policemen died in a Maoist ambush in Neelavaya, Dantewada. On Wednesday, Maoists in Usur set ablaze a bus after getting the passengers to disembark. On Thursday, a bus in which three CISF personnel and four civilians were travelling was blown up by Maoists in Bacheli in Dantewada. All the four civilians and one CISF personnel were killed in the attack.