Head constables Hardwar Shah, Kiran Surin, Devendra Kumar and their colleagues from the 11th battalion of Jharkhand Jaguar were on an area domination exercise in the forests of west Singhbum district when one of them stepped on a pressure bomb, killing all three and injuring at least three others.
As per CRPF officials, the group was assigned to dominate the area around village Hoyahatu in the Toklo area for 24 hours. At around 8:45am the blast occurred when a personnel, “accidentally stepped on a pressure bomb."
“This cannot be called a violation of the standard operating procedure. They were on foot, walking in three or four columns about 10-15 feet away from the road which is being constructed in the area," a CRPF officer told news18.com.
CRPF’s 197 battalion was also part of the joint area domination exercise. One of its personnel received splinter injuries while Jharkhand Jaguar head constable Devendra Pandita and Nikku Oraon suffered grievous injuries. All victims of the blast hail from the naxal infested areas of Jharkhand.
Constable Hardwar Shah hailed from Palamu, constable Kiran Surin from Simdega, head constable Devendra Pandit from Godda , constable Deep Topno from Khunti and constable Nikku Oraon from Latehar. They were part of the Special Assault Group -11 of Jharkhand Jaguar, a force raised specifically to take on Naxals in forest areas.
It is suspected that naxals had placed the pressure bomb near the road construction site atop the Langi Hills to target the security forces.
This area had seen encounters between Naxals and security forces in the last few days. Senior officers, including SP Ajay Linda, were at the spot when news18.com spoke to him on Thursday evening. He said operations against the CPI Maoist cadre were on in the Toklo area.
This is the first casualty that forces have suffered since the launch of TCOC by CPI Maoist. The Naxal group has announced its Tactical Counter Offensive from February till June of 2021. The new General Secretary of the outlawed body, Basav Raju, is believed to have given directions to stage fewer but deadlier operations during this year’s TCOC.
“As a military strategist Basav Raju is superior to his predecessor Ganpathy. He is also believed to be more ruthless," a senior officer dealing with anti-naxal operations told news18.com.
A security agency dossier on Basav Raju accessed by news18.com says Bassav Raju alias Nambala Keshav Rao took over as the General Secretary from Ganpathy in 2017. He is known to be carrying with him a Sony Radio, a I-Com set, a Laptop and a mobile phone to ensure that he is updated about the party activities as well as operations by security agencies.
As per the dossier, Raju worked with Maoist front organisation in Andhra, Radical Students Union (RSU) in 1979 and rose up the ranks to the top most position of the party. Raju, like the rest of the Maoist leadership, propagates the theory that road construction by the government is to aid corporate take over of jungles and minerals of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, etc. He instead wants to develop an alternative form of governance.
“The Revolutionary People’s Council is being carefully nurtured by the present general secretary as a prototype of idea governance," the assessment of security forces states.
Forces are apprehensive that the next few months in the naxal-dominated areas could be bloody.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah in a review meeting with security grid officers has sought maximum coordination between states and central forces for “a decisive fight against the Maoists this summer."