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Fleeing Maoists may use human shields
Published on 20 Sep. 2009 12:12 AM IST
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In the face of a sustained assault by security forces, Maoist leaders have begun fleeing their landmine-protected hideouts in the Chhattisgarh jungles and could use human shields to protect themselves, top officials disclosed Saturday. At least two dozen ultras were killed in the operation Friday. Reports that the government is preparing for the biggest assault on the Maoists has unsettled the rebels, the officials say. The Maoist militants hold sway over much of the iron-ore rich Bastar region - spread over 40,000 sq km in the five districts of Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Kanker, and Bastar. Reports coming in from the interiors of restive Bastar region - where the ultras have set up a massive infrastructure to carry out insurgency in several states - indicate that the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) politburo members, including general secretary Ganapathi, have started moving out from their base in the Abujhmar forest to cross over to Andhra Pradesh to avoid an aerial attack the government may be planning. On Friday, in one of Chhattisgarh’s biggest drives against Maoist insurgents, over 500 policemen led by the elite Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (Cobra), an anti-Maoist force drawn from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), attacked rebel hideouts in several locations in Bastar’s Dantewada district. Officials claimed to have killed at least two dozen insurgents though some 10 bodies have been recovered so far. An assistant commandant of the Cobra battalion, Manoranjan Singh, and five other personnel were also killed in the operation. “The CPI-Maoist politburo members have instructed their military wing, People’s Liberation of Guerrilla Army (PLGA), to avoid a direct fight with troopers to prevent losses of their skilled fighters and put up human shields before the forces in order to make the battle a long-drawn-out affair,” a top police officer involved in drawing up the anti-Maoist combat strategy told IANS. He was speaking after receiving fresh inputs from the Maoist-controlled Bastar jungles. The source said: “They (Maoists) have begun to put up boys and girls drawn from their two units - the Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Sangh and the Krantikari Adivasi Balak Sangh - to prevent troopers from moving into the territory commanded by ultras and also give a chance to their urban sympathisers and human rights activists to whip up a global campaign over the killing of minors and abuse of human rights.” A CRPF commandant posted at Bijapur’s war zone remarked: “Maoists know they can’t withstand the attacks of Indian troopers for a long time. Once their armed force is shaken, the Maoists will be reduced to the strength they had almost two decades back. So the only option left before them is to engage child soldiers recruited forcibly in the past five years to make the battle a lengthy one.” A top counter-terrorism expert said: “The forces should not go to the jungles just to hunt and recapture the areas being held by Maoists. After pushing back the Maoists, the government must have a quick plan to create livelihood for the local populace being misled by the rebels for years. This is a must to erase the sympathy among them for the ultras. “Once you capture the Maoist bases in Chhattisgarh which are deprived of economic prosperity, the government must take care of the socioeconomic problems in the area, improve infrastructure, set up police stations and strengthen governance mechanism; otherwise the rebels will regain the bases once the forces retreat.”

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