Judging by the yardstick of casualties suffered yet again by jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force, Saturday’s Maoist outrage in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma region may not possibly stand comparison with the killings of security forces in Dantewada in April 2017. The latest outrage is both the same and different.

It is rather puzzling that in a span of 24 hours, the toll has risen from five to 22. Yet the why and wherefore of this four-fold increase has not readily been explained. Suffice it to register that the intelligence feedback was mortally inadequate, as in Dantewada and some other Left radical bastions that dot the Chhattisgarh landscape.

As it turned out, Saturday witnessed by far the worst attack in the state in exactly four years, verily since the summer of 2017. Considering the nature of the injuries, not to forget the deaths, the state police has let it be known that the CRPF had walked into a trap laid out by the Maoists. The force was ambushed while returning to base and it has now been acknowledged that it was a meticulous, sudden and planned operation against the force that sustains the existing order.

The security operation was executed by the District Reserve Guard (DRG), a Special Task Force (STF), and a Cobra unit. On the face of it, it was formidable enough; the teams “went the deepest” inside the forest and were the target of rapid fire by the Maoists. The purpose of the assignment against extremists turned out to be counterproductive.

And then the giveaway ~ “We didn’t find anything at the original site. We were attacked when we were returning. We didn’t really know when the Naxals had encircled us from all sides. They have sophisticated weapons and they were using them in abundance.”

By all accounts, it was a botched operation where the security forces were trapped by the Maoists who appear to have emerged unscathed. The fact that they used “sophisticated weapons” points to the build-up of arsenal over time, and these included guns and grenades. To that can be added the CRPF’s inadequate knowledge of the rugged topography, as was painfully evident at Dantewada.

Nor for that matter is it known whether the local Chhattisgarh police were in the vanguard… to guide the CRPF across uncharted territory. It is hard not to wonder too whether any lessons have been learnt through these repeated ambushes and deaths of CRPF personnel. The injuries were as severe as they were fatal.

The dead included eight personnel from the District Reserve Guard, six from the STF, and eight from the CRPF. A cross-section of the security forces have thus lost the battle against the Maoists. Yet a visit to poll-bound Assam was more compelling to the Chief Minister, Bhupesh Baghel ~ an instance of remarkable insensitivity.