More than a simple mess

Who did they think Maoists were, Snow White and the seven dwarfs cheerfully trotting into the forest on a happy, sunkissed day?


Bikram Vohra | April 7, 2010

Not since they went looking for Private Ryan or, more somberly, the Rwanda massacres have so many armed and trained soldiers been ambushed and killed in one fell swoop as did happen in India on bloodsoaked Tuesday. The massacre of as many as 90 soldiers and counting not to even calculate the number of the wounded was a disaster of the most monumental proportions. When a trained force goes into an operation, however guerrilla in nature it has to depend on three elements. Good intelligence. Knowledge of the terrain. And a plan B indicating what has to be done when things go wrong.

Even the legendary light brigade’s 500 knew they were riding into the valley of death. In the case of these soldiers the ambush was total and their superiors failed in spades to protect and defend the troops entrusted to them. Obviously, there was no intelligence, no data, no advance planning, no concept of the terrain and no scouting to spot a horde of Maoist rebels concealed in the forest.

This is not like looking for a needle in a haystack. This is a thousand armed insurgents armed with eclectic weaponry, some of it  going back to WW II vintage  in position to mow down a proper supported armed battalion. That is what we must assume. Who did they think they were, Snow White and the seven dwarfs cheerfully trotting into the forest on a happy, sunkissed day?

It is inconceivable in military parlance for these CRPF troops to have gone in blind and it is not enough for Home Minister P Chidambaram to say things went horribly wrong. He also cautions against any kneejerk reaction. What is he taking about? Things go horribly wrong when the eggs you fry get burnt. Not when you massacre a hundred soldiers without even a hint of casualties on the other side. You sit here in catatonic shock asking yourself how many Maoists were killed and there is no number available, so total was the massacre. Mr Chidambaram can label the Maoists ‘cowards’ while sitting behind the safety of his Black Cat commandos and Z level security but he has to take the responsibility square on and answer one billion people why so much life was lost and what is being done to clean up the area and make it safe. The only kneejerk reaction seems to be his.

In acts of swift retribution the first 24 hours are vital, especially when the ‘enemy’ is euphoric and has let its guard down. These 24 hours seem to have slipped away in a confessional rhetoric and pretence of regret that counts for very little against the bloodstained earth of Chhattisgarh, not to mention the ridiculous absence of tactical deployment of troops in hostile territory.


Vohra is Editorial Advisor, Khaleej Times, Dubai.



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