When Fareeda Bibi heard her son Sher Mohammad —a CRPF constable who was part of the battalion that was ambushed in Sukma-- had taken down at least three Maoists before collapsing, she had a smile on her face. "I am proud that my son fought like a lion for his country," the 65-year-old told Times of India.
On Monday, hundreds of Maoists ambushed and massacred at least 25 CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district and escaped with their AK-47 assault rifles. This was one of the deadliest Naxal attacks in recent times.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh condemned the incident strongly, stating that the killings were akin to cold blooded murder.
According to injured personnel who were rescued from the site, at least 300 guerrillas surrounded the 100-strong CRPF patrol around 12:25 PM in Kalapathar area of south Bastar region, a hot bed of Left-wing extremism.
"I shot dead three Maoists," Jawan Sheikh Mohammad, a CRPF jawan injured in the attack was quoted as saying by The Hindu. He said women Maoists, dressed in black uniform, were also part of the group that attacked the forces.
54-year-old Gajendra Mishra was anguished that his son Abhay had been killed in a terrorist attack by his 'own countrymen'. Mishra, who is a farmer in Tulsi village of Bhojpur district, told Telegraph, "I am puzzled why these Maoists are killing sons of the poor."
Recalling the whole ambush, an injured CRPF constable told TOI that they were completely outnumbered and ran out of ammunition after two hours of gunfight.
"Guarding Kashmir is easier than being part of an anti-Maoist operation," the survivor said.
Meanwhile, in Bihar's Bharandua village, Krishna Kumar Pandey's 11-year-old daughter has been waiting for her father to return. "He had promised to come on April 28 to attend a wedding in the neighbourhood and had applied for leave also," said Anita, Kumar's wife.
"We know what it means to join the Army or CRPF. There is risk, of course. But patriotism flows in our veins," Fareeda Bibi said, while praying for the recovery of her son. She said when Sher's son, who is now 2, grows up, she will ensure he "devotes his life to protect this country" too.
Meanwhile, family members of some of the martyred soldiers have questioned the government on its stand to end the naxalite menace and protect soldiers.
Ram Mehar's father Puran Chand said, "The enemy is hiding within the country and has been killing our soldiers, and our government is not doing anything. We came to know about my son's death when officials from his company called me on the phone," he said.
Chand alleged that the government had failed to take stringent action against Naxalites.
Highly placed sources in the government told HuffPost India that a group of villagers with their cattle had approached the soldiers and had asked permission to graze their cattle. "The attack started moments after villagers left," a senior Home Ministry Official said. "We suspect that villagers were sent by the Maoist," the officer said.
The incident comes at a time when the country's largest paramilitary force is without a full-time chief after K Durga Prasad retired on February 28. Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi also reviewed the situation in the aftermath of the attack at his North Block office.