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Latehar storm after Maoist lull

The audacity of the Latehar ambush, which ended with Maoists implanting explosive devices
inside the corpses of CRPF men, comes amid security forces’ claims that the rebels are a
declining force. What was probably the cruellest ever assault on security forces came at a time
police in several states were praising themselves for having contained Maoists.

Over the last 14 months, Maoist violence had declined partly because they had lost a number of
their top cadres (see box) to encounters — and road accidents, illness and even snakebite — and
partly because security forces had made significant advances in several regions hitherto
considered “liberated”. Rather than confront advancing forces, guerrillas preferred to retreat;
CRPF men were lulled into a sense of security by the near-zero confrontation during their 10-day Abujhmaad march last year.

It now turns out the Maoists had been regrouping while recovering from those setbacks. Then
home minister P Chidambaram had been cautious during his last visit to Chhattisgarh: “It can be
considered that Naxal violence is going down, but it could also mean that security forces and
Naxals are not engaging with each other.” On the other hand, several top officers of the police
and security agencies, including Chhattisgarh DGP Ramniwas, had asserted the morale of the
Maoists was down and the battle was in its last phase.

The Maoists themselves stress 2012 was a good year for them. “The various tactical
counteroffensive campaigns and military actions by the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army
(PLGA) in the past one year in various guerilla zones had a good political impact,” Deoji of the
Central Military Commission of CPI (Maoist) said in a yearend statement to cadres. He listed a
series of major ambushes in 2012, including the one on the elite CoBRA force in Gadchiroli that
left 12 personnel dead. Deoji said 114 cops were killed last year, several of them in audacious