Head Constable Laxmikant Dwivedi of Chhattisgarh police had just finished lunch and took a few steps to reach the shade of a tree nearby. Unaware that his next step would be his last, Dwivedi stepped on a pressure IED and was killed on the spot. His entire body below the abdomen was ripped apart, one of his legs found on the top of the tree, at least 20 feet away from the ground.
And four hours before Dwivedi’s death, three constables from the Jharkhand police had met a similar fate. Head constables Hardwar Shah, Kiran Surin and Devendra Kumar were on area domination duty in the forests of Toklo in west Singhbhum district. One of them stepped on an IED accidentally, killing three and injuring at least four others. CRPF which was part of the joint operation with Jharkhand Jaguars said the IED was triggered by pressure of the human weight.
The Jharkahnd police’s preliminary investigation suggests involvement of locals in the incident. Officials in the Naxal-affected districts tell news18 that pressure bombs are not a new addition to the arsenal of CPI (Maoist) but their usage is part of a new strategy. “The pressure bombs earlier used one or two kgs of explosives, now 7-8kg is being used. The intention is to kill and not just deter forces from going inside Maoist strongholds,” Dr Abhishek Pallav, SP Dantewada told News18.
Officials said the number of pressure bombs being planted have also gone up. The strategy coincides with the start of the Tactical Counter Offensive (TCOC), which Maoists have announced from February till June. At least two officers, a CRPF Deputy Commandant and a COBRA Assistant Commandant were killed owing to the pressure bombs. Five such incidents involving pressure bombs have been reported since the start of TCOC maiming the State and central police officers.
“This is part of their low-intensity warfare strategy. Explosives are being procured easily from mines nearby. They use gelatin and daily use objects like pressure cookers or tiffin boxes to assemble the bomb,” an officer told news18.
He added that this strategy was working for Maoist since it involves low risk. “You don’t need cadre to join the wires or trigger a switch on spotting a convoy or patrol party. You just plant it and wait for someone to step in,” the officer explained. The Naxal strategy as per officials, now seems to be, to plant a IED in the open, where it is spotted easily, and plant a few others around this. Forces, who go to defuse the overt IED get injured or killed as the covert IEDs explode enroute. The bombs have an effect on the morale of the forces as they result in loss of limbs for those who are injured.
The DGP’s office in Jharkhand also confirmed the new strategy. “They are now avoiding battles or confrontations. IEDs, especially pressure bombs, do not need direct contact. So this helps to implement them in their new strategy,” a top officer in Jharkhand Police told News18.
As per CRPF dossier on January 19, 2021, after an encounter with Maoists in Bijapur, a tiffin bomb was recovered. In February, the same district saw Constable Prem Kumar Raut step on a booby trap injuring his left ankle. Spikes injured AC Ramesh Kumar in the same operation. CRPF officers say ever since Basav Raju took over as the general secretary of CPI Maoist, the group is innovating to inflict maximum damage to forces at minimum risk to themselves.