The police have begun investigations into the lapses that led to the death of 15 policemen and their driver in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli on Wednesday. The Maoists who blew up their vehicle as it crossed a culvert were watching from a short distance away as they triggered the explosives.
The police have named the entire top rung of the CPI (Maoist) as accused and what has emerged as a point of interest in the investigation is the suspected presence of Maoist leader Milind Teltumbde in the area before the attack.
The Maoist attack that killed 15 policemen was an attack planned with the top leadership of the Maoists involved. But had the police taken basic precautionary measures, the lives could have been saved, say the families of the policemen who died. They alleged the police were not following standard operating procedure while sending the men as reinforcements from Kurkheda to Purada police stations.
Pramod Mahadevrao Bhoir, 33, one of the policemen who died, got married in April last year and is survived by his wife and three-month-old son. His family wants responsibility fixed. "A few days ago there were posters in Jambulkheda that there would be attack on May 1. This information was available with officers and they should have acted accordingly. When so many cars were burned, the officer at Kurkheda should have taken it into consideration while moving the men. He should have consulted senior officers on how to strategize the police movement," Pramod Bhoir's brother-in-law Vijay Mishra told NDTV.
According to local reports and eyewitness accounts, over 200 Maoists first arrived in Dadapur village from the nearby forests between midnight and 2 am on May 1. At Dadapur village, they set ablaze 27 vehicles belonging to a construction company. Sources say a smaller team from that group then moved towards the spot where the policemen were attacked, to trigger the IED blast, knowing well the police would send reinforcements to Purada after the vehicles were set on fire.
They planted around 30 kg of industrial explosives under the culvert as they knew the police reinforcements would use the road. Watching the private vehicle approach the culvert from a short distance away, they set off the explosion using a wire trigger.
At Dadapur village, the Maoists took over an hour as they set equipment worth crores ablaze and put up posters. A villager who asked not to be named said before the attack, the Maoist dalams (local groups) held meetings at nearby villages.
According to sources, top Maoist leader Milind Teltumbde, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence last year, was also seen in the area. Milind Teltumbde, the man who handles operations for CPI (Maoist), is among the top three in the Maoist hierarchy. It was these bits of crucial intelligence the local police did not consider while moving reinforcements to Purada police station.
Risubai, a resident of Dadapur village who saw the Maoists setting the cars on fire, said the Maoists threatened to kill her when she asked them not to set the vehicles on fire. "...They asked me if the company had paid me to protect the vehicles. I said no, and if you want to kill me do so. The said you must have been paid," she told NDTV.
For villagers who are caught between the security forces and Maoists, it's a tough life. While the Maoists have very little support, they still use fear to force villagers to provide support to their operations, often killing them if they opposed them or even informed the police.
"The government should take development to the people but the Maoists do not want development," Quick Response Team member Pramod Bhoir's brother-in-law Vijay Mishra said.
Police officers say it's clear the modus operandi that the Maoists used in the attack was similar to previous attacks in Gadchiroli. In posters, the Maoists announced meetings to be held in the village and sources have told NDTV that Milind Teltumbde was seen at the village holding meetings prior to the attack.
The police have said anti-Maoist operations will be stepped up.
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