Following Monday's Maoist attack in the Sukma area of Chhattisgarh that killed 25 Central Reserve Police Force personnel, the government has asked the security forces to focus counter-offensive operations on "high value targets", including south Bastar divisional commander Raghu, head of Jagargunda area committee Papa Rao, and commander of the first battalion of People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) Hidma, who is said to be behind the latest attack.
According to a Times of India report, government sources say the CRPF and other forces have been asked to demoralise the Naxalites by targeting their leaders, area commanders and influential members of the 'jan militia'.
There are about 200-250 leaders of different committees and area commanders of Naxalites in Bastar who keep travelling between Jharkhand, Odisha and Maharashtra for coordination as well as to plan attacks on security forces, sources said.
The security forces attributed Monday's attack to not just lack of human intelligence as around 400 Maoists stationed themselves at the attack site in Burkapal village, but also to the shortage of "eyes in the air", unmanned aerial vehicles(UAVs) or drones. The ToI's sources said the CRPF and other forces have just two UAVs for the 10,470 sq km area of Bastar, the epicentre of Naxalite violence.
There are an estimated 4,000 armed Naxalite cadres in the Bastar belt, aided by a 10,000-12,000-strong 'jan militia'. "A large number of Naxalites have been arrested since last year, but senior leaders who plan ambushes on security forces have been eluding the forces for a long time. There is a need to arrest or eliminate them," said a government official.
"Home minister Rajnath Singh has already told the forces to go on an all-out offensive and break the Maoists' dominance in Bastar region, for which the government is ready to provide any number of extra companies (of security forces) and modern technology ... it is important to pick these 250 leaders, and important members in the jan militia using robust intelligence," the official added.
Both the CRPF and the Chhattisgarh government have informed the home ministry that they need a large number of UAVs to help gather "real time intelligence" about the movement of large contingents of Maoists inside the jungle, said sources. The home minister agreed, and has sought a detailed proposal.
In addition, there are also plans to procure foliage-penetrating (FOPEN) radar and more Dhruv helicopters to monitor the movement and activities of Naxalites inside thick forests.
The issue of sprucing up intelligence in Naxalism-affected areas was also discussed on Wednesday at a meeting the home minister held with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Intelligence Bureau chief Rajiv Jain.