An attack on April 26, which killed 25 members of India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the central state of Chhattisgarh, is being called one of the most brutal and daring by the region’s Maoist rebels in years. Early that morning, 72 security personnel were deployed to provide security for the construction of a highway in the Sukma District of Chhattisgarh. Around noon, CRPF forces were ambushed by 200-250 Maoist rebels, who attacked with automatic rifles, knives, and grenades. The rebels immediately began an attack that lasted over 90 minutes, which left 25 CRPF fighters dead. The attack is believed to have been engineered by Commander Madvi Hidma, who has a background in guerrilla warfare tactics, which he gained in the Philippine, and is thought to have also perpetrated an attack on March 11 that killed 12 additional personnel.
Though this attack drew considerable attention for its audacity and brutality, it exists within a broader historic context of deep-seated conflict. Chhattisgarh is part of India’s vast “Red Corridor.” This term refers to a broad swath of land in eastern India in which Maoist rebels hold considerable sway. In various regions, this influence ranges in scope from guerilla activity to (in the regions where it they are strongest) the undertaking of activities that resemble those of an actual state. Across this territory, rebels have attacked civilians and government institutions alike, and they have been successful in building infrastructure in areas where the Indian State sometimes has not. Consequently, relations between civilians, rebel groups, and the state, in parts of the Red Corridor like Chhattisgarh, are incredibly complicated. In spite of the regression of Maoist strength in the Red Corridor in recent years, both sides have variously claimed the support of locals.
In the Bastar area of Chhattisgarh (where this attack occurred), clashes between the Indian State and Maoist rebels have remained a reality. These attacks are particularly frequent when Indian forces patrol or attempt to construct infrastructure in areas that are too close to rebel bases. Claiming responsibility, the rebels put out a release that about the March 11 and April 26 attacks, which stated that “They are carried out in self-defense to protect the revolutionary struggle and bring a Janatana Sarkar (parallel government).”
On May 6, 19 Maoist rebels (including nine, who were allegedly involved in last month’s brutal attack) were apprehended in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district. Their capture occurred through joint operations by the CRPF and local forces, which also saw 10 others captured. Such cooperation appears to be occurring in retaliation to the brutal attacks of recent weeks. With rebel forces expressing continued determination to see the establishment of a parallel government, and the Indian state attempting to crack down on the perpetrators of anti-state attacks, Chhattisgarh seems likely to experience continued conflict.
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