Ten security personnel of the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and a civilian driver were killed as the mini van they were travelling reportedly came under an ambush attack by Maoists using Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district on Wednesday.
The incident occurred in the Aranpur area when the DRG team was returning to its district headquarters in Dantewada between 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.
DRG is a special force of the Chhattisgarh police, which mostly involves local tribals, for carrying carry out anti-Maoist operations. As per official sources, DRG teams were carrying out anti-Maoist operations in the Aranpur area for the past few days.
Wednesday's attack was the biggest carried out by Maoists on the security forces in the state since 2021, when 22 security personnel were killed in an ambush along the borders of Sukam and Bijapur districts.
The latest attack has taken the toll of security personnel killed by Maoists in Chhattisgarh to 119 in the last five years.
As per a report presented in the Rajya Sabha by the Union Home Ministry earlier this year, 22 security personnel were killed in Chhattisgarh in 2019, 36 in 2020, 45 in 2021, and six in 2022.
Chhattisgarh has a long history of Maoists killing security forces personnel. In 2017, 36 CRPF personnel were killed by the Maoists, while in the 2013 Darbha valley attack, 27 people were killed, including former Congress minister Mahendra Karma, then state Congress President Nand Kumar Patel, and senior party leader Vidyacharan Shukla, who succumbed to his injuries a few days after the attack.
As per the Home Ministry's report, the incidents of violent Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) attacks in Chhattisgarh dropped by 77 per cent in 2022, as compared to 2010. But Wednesday's attack has again brought the issue of Maoist ambush to the fore in Chhattisgarh, which is scheduled to go to the polls later this year.
Some officials said that the Maoists were tracking the movement of the DRG teams ever since they launched anti-Maoist operation a few days back, adding that Wednesday's attack was a "planned" one.
Inspector General of Police for Bastar range, Sundaraaj P., said, "The security personnel were returning to the Dantewada headquarters in a mini van. One of the vehicles was targetted by the Maoists, which was blown up using IED."
Some sources said that the attack was carried out because the Maoists came to know that the security forces have become aware of their presence in the Aranpur area.
According to experts, Maoists often carry out attacks on security forces between February and June, as the visibility in the dense forest areas is relatively high during this period.
The previous Maoist attack in the state took place in end-February, in which one Chhattisgarh Armed Force (CAF) jawan was killed in a pressure IED blast. Seven security personnel and an army soldier were also killed in an ambush in the same week.
The experts also raised questions over using private vehicles for carrying security personnel despite knowing that a large movement of Maoists was seen in the area.
Given that Wednesday's attack came barely six months before the Assembly elections in Chchattisgarh, it sends a strong message to the state government over the law and situation in the poll-bound state.
There are at least 18 Assembly constituencies that fall in the Maoist-infested areas of Bastar, Kanker, Sukma, Bijapur, Dantewada, Narayanpur, Kondagaon and Rajnandgaon districts. In 2018, a Maoist attack was reported when the first phase of voting was underway.