Kolkata: Faulty planning by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was a key factor that led to the massacre of over 70 men at the hands of Maoists in Chhattisgarh, according to a former intelligence chief of West Bengal Police.
Amiya Samanta also said in an interview that security forces needed to check the antecedents of everyone around them and their camps to prevent valuable intelligence from leaking to the Maoist guerrillas.
"It is an established practice that security forces move on foot in small groups on such terrain (as in Chhattisgarh)," Samanta told a news agency. "Because then the losses can be minimised."
"(But) the CRPF party was moving in vehicles in Chhattisgarh. This was faulty planning. The rebels set booby traps, exploded landmines and lay in waiting," he said.
Maoist guerrillas carried out the worst massacre of security forces early Tuesday by slaughtering 75 CRPF personnel and one Chhattisgarh policeman in the dense forests of Bastar region. The outnumbered security forces were fired at and attacked with a variety of bombs for seven long hours.
Samanta, formerly the director general of intelligence in the West Bengal Police, was also a joint director in the Intelligence Bureau in New Delhi in the mid-1980s.
He said it was unfortunate the Maoists came to know in advance the route the security forces would take through the forests of Dantewada in Bastar region.
"On the one hand, intelligence collection of the forces was faulty. They had no idea so many Maoists had camped in the area. On the other hand, the ultras got vital tip-off about the route and timing of the convoy."
Samanta cautioned security forces about the need to maintain operational secrecy.
"They should know how to maintain security and must be made aware about the strategies the Maoists may employ to ferret out information," he said.
The authorities should sanitise people in the periphery of the security forces to ensure that Maoists do not have access to vital information that would help them to mount deadly attacks.
"People like drivers, sweepers and even local policemen have to be sanitised. Security forces must be briefed on how they should remain alert so that the Maoists do not get wind of police movements," he said.
Samanta pointed out that because of the federal character of the Indian system, it would not be possible for Home Minister P Chidambaram to enforce his plan on all the states.
"The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) or the Left Front will not accept that. They would rather implement their own plan. So we (need to) have different plans in different states."
He felt there was no need to call in the military because the police and the paramilitary forces were capable of controlling the Maoist menace over time.
"When the military finds the condition tough, it does a tactical retreat. And then regroups and relaunches an assault. The security forces fighting the ultras also need to do the same."
Samanta was also one of the key police officers to have combated the Naxalites, as the Maoists are known, in the 1960s and 1970s.
Comparing the Naxalites of then and now, he said: "The former were intellectually much better. Have you seen their photos with arms in their hands? And look at these Maoists. They court the media with AK-56 and AK-47 rifles. What kind of revolutionaries are they?
"The earlier Naxalites` objective was to organise an agrarian revolution and ensure social justice. To finish off class enemies, they killed select targets using conventional weapons. They did not have mines.
"But today`s Maoists are operating in the protection of jungles and hills.
They have no base among peasants."
"They have never targeted any big companies. They have only blown up police stations and railway stations. What they are doing is sophisticated banditry."