Assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Rajendra Singh of the Indio-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)’s 53rd battalion lost his life on Monday morning when an improvised explosive device (IED) allegedly set by Naxals went off in Narayanpur, Chhattisgarh. Singh, a resident of Uttarakhand and a 1989-batch ITBP personnel, bore the brunt of the IED as he stepped on it, as per reports sent to the force’s headquarters.
But the standard operating procedure (SOP) may have saved the lives of 76 others who were part of the road security operation. Officials told CNN-News18 that a party of 77 including a dog, 30 Chhattisgarh police officials, and 47 ITBP personnel had set off in the morning, to provide security to workers building the Sonpur-Dhondribera road in Narayanpur.
“This road security operation was on for the last 4 days. Monday was the last day when a joint team of state police and ITBP had left the camp. The blast happened about 1.5 km from the camp,” an ITBP official told News18.
The Naxal or Maoist movement dates back to 1967 when armed peasants revolted in Naxalbari and later the “red” cadres of the CPI (Maoist) led the agitation claiming legitimate socio-economic rights for tribal and locals. Security personnel have been fighting bloody battles with the guerrillas around the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh that comprises remote districts like Sukma, Bijapur, Kondagaon, Kanker, Narayanpur, Bijapur, Dantewada and Jagdalpur.
ITBP in its statement said, “The jawans of the 53rd battalion ITBP were on a security duty at a road construction site between Sonpur to Dhondribera when reportedly a pressure IED blast took place this morning at around 08.30 am. ASI Rajendra Singh sustained grievous injuries and attained veergati. One head constable Borade Mahesh Laxman was also injured in the blast and evacuated to the district hospital Narayanpur.”
Borade Laxman’s vitals were stable until Monday evening as per doctors.
ITBP officials believe that the rest of the platoon was saved because they followed the SOP of keeping at least a 15-step distance from each other. “The ITBP SOP for such operations is designed to reduce the probability of IED attacks as well as minimise the extent of damage in case of an unfortunate IED blast,” DG ITBP Sanjay Arora told News18.
He added that since the same route was being taken by the force every day as part of road security, Naxals may have observed their movement and planted the IED.
“ITBP as a professional force is well trained and prepared for all eventualities. However, the security to development work like road construction is repetitive and predictable work. This predictability is used by Maoists to lay IEDs against security forces. The morale of the ITBP troops in Chhattisgarh is high. The offensive and operation will continue,” he told CNN-News18.
The incident happened at the peak of the tactical counter offensive campaign (TCOC) that Maoists launch before monsoons every year.