Police personnel found it difficult to crawl in corn fields.
Singh put together a small force of 43 policemen, 20 from the Special Auxiliary Police (SAP) and 23 from the Bihar Military Police to launch combat operations. “Our intelligence input said that there were at least 500 naxals in the hills. But the SP, in an unusually strange decision, put together a small combat force,” revealed Prasad. Bhulan Yadav, a sub-inspector killed in the encounter, was inexperienced in counter-insurgency operations. Yet, he was deputed as the leader of the loosely created combat team. Mishra, a close friend of Bhulan, was the last person to receive his call. “Bhulan called asking me to inform the SP to send reinforcements. Then his phone disconnected abruptly. I called back repeatedly but could not get through,” said Mishra. He further added: “All the personnel of SAP are ex-Army soldiers familiar with counter-insurgency tactics. They instinctively take lying position and crawl when they come under fire. Bhulan tried to crawl, but couldn’t. He gave up and tried to take cover behind a tree, but was shot in the eye.”
Mishra and Prasad revealed that Singh did not follow the SOP laid down after the Dantewada massacre. “A detailed strategy is formulated, GPS coordinates are set before the force begins its movement. But Ashok Singh did not make any plan,” Mishra told Indian Defence Review. He further said: “He knew that we were operating in undulating, hilly and forested terrain. He knew the topography. He should have been aware, after the recent ambushes in Chattisgarh wherein naxals occupied higher ground and lured the policemen into a trap.” CRPF commandant Patra concurred: “the SOP was not followed. Once force is assembled the commanders discuss the terrain, topography and intelligence. This is explained to the troops using sand models and survey of India maps.”
CRPF troops withdrew instead of retaliating.
Bhulan’s inexperience in combat operations resulted in splitting up of the combat team along two different directions. He asked the CRPF contingent to move towards the right and patrol the Ghaghar Ghati area and Morve Dam, while he moved with his policemen towards Kanimai and Sitala Kodasi adivasi villages surrounded on both sides by 300 feet high densely forested hills. As the police party moved into the villages, they came under heavy fire from both sides.” Bihar police officers claim that when their men were ambushed the CRPF did not provide covering fire to rescue the trapped policemen. “Our men regained higher ground to provide covering fire, which enabled 36 policemen to escape,” asserted Patra.
It is rare for a SP to go out for operational, combat duty.
The fact that the Bihar Police personnel surrendered is hardly mentioned or recalled. “After we came under heavy fire the naxals kept announcing that we should surrender or else everyone would get killed. We surrendered because the CRPF withdrew,” said Abhay. “They treated the injured, bandaged those who were wounded, gave water to those who asked for it and asked them to leave. They collected all the weapons and asked four of us to accompany them into the jungle.” Later, the naxals informed local journalists that they had seized 35 Insas and AK-47 rifles. The Bihar police is facing a severe crisis of confidence. According to protocol a deputy commandant of CRPF is equivalent to the rank of a Superintendent of Police. Yet, “Officers don’t lead, they just pass orders. If senior officers do not lead us on combat duty why should we put our lives in danger?” asked Yadav.
The EN Rammohan inquiry commission report on the April 6th massacre of 75 CRPF personnel and a Chattisgarh police constable in Dantewada strongly recommended seamless operational coordination and intelligence-sharing between the CRPF and the state police. It is important to recall that among the four counts on which the Home Ministry has sought action against two Chattisgarh police officers, IG Longkumer and SP, Amaresh Mishra, was about an intelligence input about presence of Naxals in Mukram forests not being shared with the CRPF. Since, the Dantewada and Lakhisarai incidents are similar, why isn’t the Union Home Ministry and the Bihar Government instituting an enquiry against the former Lakhisarai SP, Ashok Singh?
“We wish naxals had taken politicians hostage.”
“We wish naxals had taken politicians hostage” said Naresh Kumar, teacher, Janta Mahavidyalaya, Surajgarha. Naresh emphasises his primary identity is that of a farmer. Surrounded by friends and villagers of Alinagar, Naresh, he loses himself in tirade filled with venom for Bihar’s politicians.
“India Can Win Kargil, Not this War.”
The situation was best summed up by the SHO of Chanan police station: “India can win the Kargil war, not this war, not this way.”