In an interview, Kuldiep Singh denied reports that the forces were ill-prepared. He said securitymen have to pay a heavy price at times to keep the country safe

People like notorious Maoist commander Madvi Hidma soon “become history”, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) chief Kuldiep Singh has told News18 in an interview, hinting at stepping up operations against the Naxalites who carried out a deadly attack on security forces in Chhattisgarh’s forests last week.

Singh said a “plan is already in place” for the next stage of operations, stressing that security forces gradually gained a lot of ground in their crackdown on the outlawed CPI(Maoist).

“They are fighting with their back against the wall. They are now restricted in a smaller area. And the main thing is either they have to be eliminated or they will have to run away,” Singh said. “Earlier, they were controlling 100 square kilometres. Now it is 20 square kilometres.”

The top CRPF official added that hideouts will be busted and Maoists flushed out “from these areas” approximately within a year. When asked what will happen to Hidma, Singh said: “I can’t be 100% sure, but such people soon become history.”

Hidma, who is believed to be around 40 years old and originally from Sukma, is the suspected mastermind of Saturday’s ambush that killed 22 personnel in a remote village at the borders between Bijapur and Sukma districts. The People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) commander of the CPI (Maoist) is linked to several major strikes, including the one in 2013 that killed 27, including top state Congress leaders.

In the interview to News18, Singh denied that security men walked straight into a trap set by Maoists. Apart from the CRPF’s elite anti-Maoist Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBra) and Bastariya Battalion teams, the state’s District Reserve Group (DRG) and a Special Task Force (STF) were involved in the operation.

“…it wasn’t a trap…if it were, we would have suffered much heavier casualties…Also, we inflicted heavy casualties on them,” Singh said. While Maoists claim they lost four of their own, Singh said Naxalites had to use “four tractors take away the injured and the dead”.

The CRPF chief said he was “200% proud” of his men who kept on fighting despite being “sprayed by bullets”, and helped those injured in one of the worst strikes linked to Left-wing extremism in India.

He also rejected allegations that the forces were ill-prepared. “…more than 450 soldiers had gone to a particular area where they were ambushed…they fought for 7-8 kilometres…It was a continuous ambush, continuous chasing. And we were constantly fighting, hitting them and securing our injured…calling for reinforcement…Once you are in action, the situation dictates…it is not that you are ill-prepared…that is the nature of our job…we have to take casualties,” he said.

Singh added that it was “unfortunate that we had to take 22 casualties, and also one person is missing”, but that was the kind of price forces have to pay to keep the country together “from the nefarious activities of Naxals”.