The Gadchiroli encounter in which 40 naxalites were killed was a huge morale boost for the security forces. It was probably one of the most successful operations carried out by the forces against the red terrorists in recent times.
The forces were on the trail of the naxals for over a week. There was concrete information that a batch of 15 to 20 naxalites led by their leader Sainath were approaching the Kasansur village in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli district.
The naxalites set up a base between Maharashtra and Chattisgarh. While one team kept a close watch on the Maharashtra side, another sneaked in through the Chattisgarh side. When the forces got the go ahead on April 22, they began firing and hurling grenades from both sides at the Maoists.
The naxalites were taken off guard and were unable to retaliate. The forces picked them out one by one and shot them dead. The only person who tried to retaliate was Sainath, but he soon ran out of bullets and was shot dead. The firing went on till 3 pm and the forces had killed all of them. Another encounter took place the next day and the death toll went up to 40. Not a single person from the force was killed.
Taking down this Sainath led team of naxalites was crucial. They had become dangerous and were looking to stage a major strike on the forces. This hit on them would have demoralised them no end, said an officer. The key to the encounter was not to let anyone surrender. We never went there with a mindset of capturing anyone alive. Both men and women were targeted as they were equally dangerous. Some of the women naxalites who were bathing tried to surrender, but no option was given. Many jumped into the river trying to save themselves, but they died. Their bodies were found floating in the river the following day and it bore both bullet and burn marks.
The success for the forces continued for the forces a few days later, but this time it was in Bijapur. 8 red terrorists part of the hit-squad were shot dead. During the combing operation, the forces found several rocket launchers which led to the suspicion that they were part of a major hit squad.
The operation was carried out by the elite Greyhounds, Chattisgarh police and CRPF, Special Director General of Police, Durgesh Madhav Awasthi said.
The battle broke out on a remote hillock nera IImidi along the Telangana border. The forces received a tip-off about the movement of the naxals following which they launched the operation.
Awasthi said that while the CRPF and police blocked the escape routes, the Greyhounds went after the naxals. The naxalites opened indiscriminate fire, but this was countered and 8 of them killed. There were no casualties reported on the side of the security forces.
Apart from the rocket launchers, the forces also recovered an SLR rifle, a 3030, single barrel muzzle loading gun, hand grenades, Maoist literature, and a 315 rifle. Out of the 8 naxals killed, six were women, the police said.