Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh described Monday's Maoist attack in the Sukma district of Chhattisgarh as "cold blooded murder", as initial investigations raised questions of possible violation of the Standard- Operating Procedure (SOP).
CRPF soldiers had broken for lunch and even perhaps huddle together making them an easy target, initial investigations have revealed. Besides, questions about how movement of large number of Maoist in the area remain detected remain unanswered?
At least 25 CRPF soldiers were killed and half-a-dozen were injured in the ambush in Burkhapal in the Sukhma district on Monday. The CRPF were out on a routine exercise to protect road construction workers and equipment when they were ambushed.
Top Home Ministry sources confirmed to HuffPost India that about 30 odd soldiers had broken for lunch, "whereas the rest – about 40 soldiers - were on guard". The Chhattisgarh Police too tried to play down questions of SoP violation and intelligence failure. "There were no civilian casualties besides rest of the soldiers did put up a fight," a senior Chhattisgarh Police officer who didn't want to be named said.
Union Home Minister Singh also indicated that, in the light of the attack, anti-Maoist strategy may be revisited. But veterans and experts feel instead of change in strategy, the government must look within.
"To guard a road under construction, one spread out into the surrounding forest, it is strange that they were on the road," former Director General of CRPF Prakash Mishra told HuffPost India.
"One needs to check whether the soldiers were following a predictable pattern, were they going out at the same time and using the same route?" he questioned.
Investigations into previous attacks have often revealed that that a predictable pattern of troop movement have led to casualties.
Others, like E N Rammohan, who inquired into the April 2010 massacre where 76 CRPF soldiers were killed in a single ambush in Chintalnad, said "the high casualty showed lack of application, field craft and leadership."
Officers who have served in Maoist affected areas also questioned how the movement of Maoists weren't detected. "The local police and central agencies both run sources, why weren't they able to pick up that large number of Maoists were moving in the area?" a senior serving officer questioned.
Former Central Army Commander Lieutenant General H S Panag said that the CRPF needs to be reformed and restructured immediately. The Lucknow based Central Army Command of the Indian Army is tasked to look at areas that include Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand etc.
The CRPF doesn't have a full-time chief. The country's largest para-military has been headless since K Durga Prasad retired in February 2017. Second in command, Sudeep Lakhtakia, has been holding fort since.
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