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Maoist attack: Procedural lapse cost Bihar cops their lives

Krishnakumar P | February 10, 2009 20:11 IST

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The 10 policemen, who were ambushed by Maoists in a remote Bihar village on Monday, flouted standard guidelines issued by the district administration, government officials said on Tuesday.

"We had asked the police department not to participate in functions in remote villages and not accept any request to become the chief guest of any function there. It is one of the basic and standard warnings that we give to the policemen," Nawada District Magistrate Yogendra Bhakt told on Tuesday.

An 18-member police party, led by the officer in charge of the Kauwa Kol police station Rameshwar Ram, reached Nawada district's Mahulitand village, close to the Bihar-Jharkhand border, to participate in a function organised by the Anushuhit Jati Vikas Samiti. Ram was supposed to have been felicitated at the function to mark Ravidas Jayanti.

As soon as the officer got on to the makeshift stage, the waiting Maoists opened fire from all sides, killing him and nine other policemen on the spot. The plight of eight other policemen is still unknown. "We are still in the jungle. We have not made any headway," a senior police officer leading a search party in the inhospitable terrain told

The ambushed police party also flouted another aspect of the standard operations procedure. Apart from the warning on attending functions in remote villages, the district administration had also warned the security forces against taking kachcha roads.

"After Anup Marandi (Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Babulal Marandi's son) was killed in an ambush on the Jharkhand-Bihar border, we had issued a note to the security forces on the above two aspects. I do not know the circumstances under which the officer accepted the invitation. But we had clearly instructed them not to attend such functions unless they are there to provide bandobast," Bhakt said.

The failure to follow standard operations procedure has resulted in many casualties for the security forces in recent times.

"We just don't seem to be learning from our past mistakes. Towards the end of last year, we had the infamous Greyhounds incident in Orissa (40 personnel from India's best anti-Naxal force were killed while they were on their way from southern Orissa to Andhra Pradesh)

"Then there was the Superintendent of Police and Inspector General who were killed during the Chhattisgarh elections. They were sitting in the same vehicle though protocol says two senior officers should not be in the same vehicle," a senior intelligence officer said.

The district administration believes that the killings are in retaliation for the gunning down of five Maoists in Sirdala village in May, 2008.

"The main objectives of the attack are retaliations and snatching of arms and ammunition. They had threatened to kill 10 policemen to avenge the killing of the five Maoists," Bhakt said.

The biggest attack in Bihar in recent times comes just a week after 15 policemen were brutally murdered in an ambush in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli district.

Police officers and security analysts had then said that the Maoists had started a Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign and many more brutal ambushes and political assassinations might follow.

"Their TCOC seems well underway. This -- the second attack in two weeks -- looks like it is very much part of the wave," a security analyst said.

Though such retaliations are planned at the local level, they still need the consent of the central committee, which authorises the TCOC. As part of the bloody campaign, Maoists carry out a series of attacks on security forces and political targets, to regain the upper hand whenever they are weakened.

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