In the last ten years, since the Laheri attack in October 2009 where 17 policemen were killed and the Dhanora attack which killed 12 CRPF commandoes lost their life, there has been a decline in Maoist activity in Maharashtra. However, in the election year, the situation seems to have become worse. Putting together accounts from villagers and police sources, NDTV traces how the Maoists executed the latest attack in Gadchiroli.
Maoists in Gadchiroli were able to inflict damage and create fear just as the administration was gaining foothold after a massive operational success against them last year. Fifteen policemen and the driver of the private vehicle they were travelling in, died on the spot.
The attack began with the burning of 27 vehicles engaged in constructing the road that leads to Dadapur village from Kurkheda in Gadchiroli.
NDTV found that as most people in Dadapur slept, Maoists came and put up posters and then set the vehicles on fire. After that they moved towards Kurkheda, where they attacked the police team that was going to check what was going on in Dadapur.
The police are now investigating the lapses that led to the attack. Sources have told NDTV that the Maoists camped somewhere between Dadapur and Kurkheda overnight, but the police missed this critical intelligence. Sources also add that the Maoists assembled the improvised explosive device used to carry out the blast sometime between 6:30 and 9:30 in the morning.
According to police officers who have served in the area, this was a detailed plan with solid intelligence and the probe must focus on who revealed police's plans to them. Since forces in these areas travel by foot, questions are being raised about why these men were packed into vehicle when there was specific knowledge about Maoist activity in the region.
The Maoists also had prior information that policemen were travelling in a private car and triggered the blast just as their vehicle crossed a culvert, barely six kilometres from Kurkheda. As they triggered the explosion, the entire structure was damaged, and the police car went flying in the air. It landed some distance away, killing all policemen and the driver on the spot.
People in the villages that NDTV travelled through, refused to speak out of fear.More than 24 hours since the Maoist attack, posters threatening Prime Minister Modi and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and warning people to stay away from the police are still there. The posters clearly announce that the attack was to avenge last year's operation in which 40 Maoists were killed.