The drone attack is stated to have taken place around 3 a.m. on Monday (April 19) on a rebel camp between Bothalanka and Palagudem in Bijapur district in Bastar forest areas of Chhattisgarh

Hyderabad: Counter Insurgency operations by security forces against the Maoist rebels seemed to have entered a new phase with the use of drones to launch attacks on the Naxalites camps in South Bastar, a rebel stronghold in Chhattisgarh.

The security forces are known to use unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) extensively in counter insurgency operations. But the attack on a rebel camp in the early hours of April 19 using an UAV to launch mortar attacks indicates a paradigm shift in the warfare to counter the red rebels. The drone attack is stated to have taken place around 3 a.m. on Monday (April 19) on a rebel camp between Bothalanka and Palagudem in Bijapur district in Bastar forest areas of Chhattisgarh.

The use of drones in counter-guerrilla operations was disclosed by none other than Vikalp, the spokesperson for the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) in a statement written in Hindi. A copy of the statement was made available to Telangana Today.

Multiple sources in Chhattisgarh police claimed they were unaware of the use of drones to attack. Two highly placed sources, however, confirmed that the security forces intercepted wireless communication of the Maoists indicating that the rebels had to rush from one location to another in the early hours of Monday due to some reason. “We could infer that there was a lot of tension and confusion as rebel teams were rushing out of their camps”, another source who was privy to the intercepted wireless chatter disclosed.

The security forces also learnt through the intercepts that around 30 Maoists were injured in the April 3 attack, out of which a dozen were grievously wounded.

In his two-page statement, Vikalp maintained that the drone attack was a planned one by the security forces to ‘avenge’ the PLGA attack on the security forces on April 3. The Maoist rebels ambushed security forces near Teklagudem killing 22 Jawans. The combing operation was led by the District Reserve Guard (DRG) of Chhattisgarh police and assisted by the COBRA force of the CRPF. In all 14 DRG men and 8 CRP men were killed in the ambush, which once again proved the striking capabilities of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), the military wing of the CPI (Maoist). A CRP Jawan who was held hostage by Naxals was later released by them.

A day later, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah air-dashed to Bastar and spoke of the government’s resolve to put down the revolutionary movement. Shah spoke about taking the counter-insurgency operations to a “logical conclusion”. Interestingly, the claim of the drone attack by security forces came within a fortnight of Amit Shah’s assertion of the steely resolve of the government to check the red violence.

Hitherto, the UAVs were used extensively for the security forces for surveillance purposes only. The Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters are also stationed in Chhattisgarh, but the choppers are used only for airlifting the security forces to combat areas or to shift the injured personnel to hospitals. There have been instances of the IAF choppers coming under fire from the Maoist rebels. “The drone attack is to keep up the morale of the security forces and assure the corporate houses…” Vikalp said in his statement.

Another interesting aspect of the ongoing see-saw battle between security forces and the rebels is that a senior CRP officer, IG Nalin Prabhat is believed to have been entrusted with the task of coordinating the Counter Insurgency Operations in Bastar.

Nalin Prabhat, an Additional DG cadre officer of Andhra Pradesh, currently on deputation to CRP, was the Superintendent of Karimnagar district when the Koyyur encounter took place on December 2, 1999. Three Central Committee members of the then CPI- Marxist- Leninist (People’s War) were killed dealing a major blow to the naxalite movement. It was on the first anniversary of the Koyyur encounter, the People’s War had announced the formation of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) in 2000 and held Nalin Prabhat responsible for the killing of its top cadres. The People’s War subsequently merged with the Maoists Communist Centre of India (MCCI) to form the CPI (Maoist) in its current form.