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Not an act of desperation

The Darbha valley attack has occurred when the Maoists are cornered by paramilitary operations and development. Does it mark a new strategy?THE unprecedented ambush by Maoists on a Congress party convoy in the Darbha valley of Chhattisgarh is a grim reminder of the government’s repeated failure to measure up to the Naxals’ ability to spring a deadly surprise. That this attack has happened when the Naxals are admittedly badly hit by the anti-Naxal paramilitary operations begun in 2009 and the government’s development blitz, makes it all the more significant.

The most important and immediate takeaway is that the Naxals are down but not out, and that they have perhaps been restructuring their operational strategy. The Maoists’ internal assessment, as also interviews with some of the surrendered senior Naxals, have clearly brought out the fact that the top Naxal leadership is deeply disconcerted by the government’s blitz on the twin fronts of development and security. After some severe setbacks, such as the death of over 75 CRPF men in the Dantewada ambush in 2010, the security forces had slowly started making inroads into Naxal heartlands across the “red corridor”, taking those areas away from Maoist clutches. They were able to penetrate Abujmaad that had never seen government presence before.

What cannot be dismissed is that the Naxals dared to carry out Saturday’s attack despite all constraints and knowing too well that it will strengthen the government’s resolve against them. Such a big attack could not have been resorted to without the top Naxal leadership vetting it.

In Gadchiroli, after the 2009 killings of over 55 police personnel, Naxals had managed to mock the state machinery with impunity, forcing sarpanchs to resign, holding kangaroo courts and killing civilians at will. But with the police taking charge firmly over the last few months, the Naxals are on the backfoot.

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