Spread around 40,000 sq km, tribal-dominated Bastar has witnessed a string of deadly attacks in past 10 years that has left about 2093 people including 710 security personnel dead, but the well-planned May 25 attack on the Congress convoy reflected a new strategy of rebels who were apparently enraged over frequent visits of politicians to their stronghold.
The current phase is also marked by a conscious attempt to militarise the armed component of the party - the Peoples Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA)- with a view to launch attacks on the state apparatus, they said. Like every year in the recent past, the human loss due to Naxal-related incidents in Chhattisgarh reached close to the three digit mark in 2013.
Till November, 97 people including 41 security personnel, two assistant constables, a homeguard and 53 civilians, were killed in Naxal-related incidents, as per official statistics. In 2012, the causalities were 108 including 41 security personnel, four assistant constables, a homeguard and 62 civilians. On the other hand, 32 left wing guerrillas were killed in 138 encounters between security forces and Maoists this year in comparison to the previous year number of only 37.
This year began with a setback for the state police when a court on January 7 acquitted for lack of evidence, all the 10 arrested accused in the 2010 Tadmetla Maoist attack case in which 75 CRPF personnel and a police jawan were killed in Dantewada district. Maoists also attempted to execute a major incident by unleashing a bullet attack on Indian Air Force helicopter, when it was on a casualty evacuation mission in restive Sukma forest. A wireless operator was injured in the incident. Then April brought success in an anti-insurgency operation when the joint team of security forces from Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh gunned down ten Naxals in Sukma district.
With no major Maoist disturbance reported until May first week, security forces were waiting for monsoon as Maoists scale down their activities in the rainy season.
Then on May 12, three police personnel were killed in a Naxal attack at the Doordarshan relay centre in Bastar. In response, the security forces intensified their operations and after few days a major incident was reported from Bijapur where eight villagers, including suspected Naxals were killed in a gun-battle between security forces and rebels on May 18 night.
An elite Cobra battalion jawan also succumbed in the incident. This month was yet to see a major strike which occurred on May 25 that prompted the state machinery to immediately revamp its security measures in the Naxal dominated region and review its anti-naxal strategies.
Maoists trapped a Congress convoy in Jiram valley stretch of Darbha after triggering a landmine blast and went on a killing spree using rifle and guns. Within an hour, atleast 28 people including PCC chief Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh, senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma, ex-MLA Uday Mudaliyar and other Congressmen and security personnel lay dead in the inhospitable area.
Injured in the incident, former Union Minster VC Shukla died at a hospital in Gurgaon later. The reverberations of the shocking incident were felt well outside India too. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) and state-constituted judicial commission are probing the incident.
The year also saw another unusual move by Naxals, when they killed journalists in separate incidents in Bastar. Chhattisgarh Police have arrested 400 Naxals and recovered 175 arms from Maoist possession till November 2013. Besides, 128 landmines were also seized during this period.
Also, 27 Naxals have laid their arms before police. According to Professor Girishkant Pandey, Head, Department of Defence Studies in Government Science College here, the Maoist base is squeezing due to heavy deployment of security forces in Bastar region connecting restive forests of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
"It seems red ultras are now involved more in recruiting heads particularly in their military wing in this region," he added.
The Naxals are trying hard to induct new recruit by mobilising women and children to join the movement in Dandakaranya region where they are running the anti-state rebellion since 1980s, enlisting support of the large number of impoverished tribals, a senior police official added.