New Delhi: In a strict disciplinary action, the CRPF has suspended 17 of its troopers, including four junior officers, for "inaction" after an inquiry found that they deserted their martyred colleagues during a deadly Naxal ambush earlier this year in Chhattisgarh which claimed 16 lives alongwith a civilian.
A Court of Inquiry instituted immediately after the March 11 incident in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district found that these personnel, part of the squad that was trapped in the ambush in a narrow field, displayed "lack of action and did not show satisfactory counter action" to save their fellow troopers as they themselves ran for safety of their lives.
"The Inspector General Chhattisgarh has placed them under suspension after the preliminary inquiry found them guilty on these charges. The full inquiry would be completed within three months time," CRPF Director General Dilip Trivedi told PTI today.
This is a rare disciplinary action that the lead anti-Naxal operations force of the country has taken against its men in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) theatre that it has been deployed for over a decade now.
"17 personnel have been suspended as they have been found guilty of dereliction of duty and soldier like conduct. While fourteen of them are constable rank troops, four others are subordinate officers in the rank of Inspector and Assistant Sub-inspectors," a senior officer said.
Officials said the inquiry was conducted by a Commandant rank officer and the recommendations have now been sent to the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) rank officer tasked for anti-Maoist operations.
"The inquiry stated that this was a clear cut case of violation of standard operating procedures and soldier skills. The patrol squad was ambushed and Naxals looted a huge cache of weapons from the slain troops. What they did was sheer cowardice," the officer said.
Officials said the inquiry has allegedly found that had these men retaliated, a number of lives would have been saved and casualties could have been inflicted on the attacking Maoist squad which was estimated to be 200 strong during the incident.
The said ambush on March 11, which brought back memories of the gory 2010 Dantewada massacre in which 76 CRPF personnel were gunned down in the same area, was conducted by Naxals in the Tahakwada area of worst Naxal-hit Sukma district as they ambushed a security patrol killing 16 people including 11 of the CRPF in a daring daytime attack.
The encounter that lasted nearly three hours took place at a road construction site, exactly a month before the Lok Sabha elections in Chhattisgarh.
The ultras struck at 'Jeerum Nullah', 400 km from capital state Raipur, at around 1015 AM when a contingent of 48 men of joint security forces personnel was trapped and struck by heavy fire and landmine blasts. The area, 'Jeerum Ghati' axis, is notorious for Naxal violence.
Chief Minister Raman Singh had called the Naxals action cowardly.
The attack is believed to have been carried out by the trio of Ramanna-Surinder-Deva of Dharbaghati wing of Dhandkaryana Zonal Committee. The ambush site was barely five km from the area where virtually the top Congress leadership of the state was wiped out by Maoists in May last year.
The same trio was blamed by security agencies for the May attack in which 25 people were killed.
Congress leaders Mahendra Karma and Kumar Patel, who was Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Chief, were among the victims. Patel's son was also killed.