Dantewada Naxal Attack: A Calculated Cowardly Act of Red Terror
Anurag Sharma, Senior Research Associate, VIF

सिंहवत्सर्ववेगेन पतन्त्यर्थे किलार्थिनः॥
[Verse from the Yogavasishtam 3.78.6]

(English translation: Those who intend to get work done cast themselves on the task with all possible speed, like a lion) [1]

Left-Wing Extremism (LWE), often known as Naxalism, has carried out assaults against security forces and civilians in Bharat, headed by the Communist Party of India (Maoist) or CPI (Maoist). The CPI (Maoist) and all of its manifestations are banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UA(P)A], 1967, and are all included on the Terrorist Organisations Schedule. Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, and Kerala are among the States having variable levels of LWE exposure.

On 26 April 2023, ten security personnel of the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and their driver attained Veergati when Maoists setoff an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. It was one of the infamous attacks by Maoists in recent times. Two years back, on 03 April 2021, nearly 400 Maoists had ambushed security personnel deployed in the forest area in Sukma district, Chhattisgarh, for a significant anti-Naxal operation. At least 22 security personnel had attained Veergati in that attack.[2] The District Reserve Guard (DRG) is a special unit of the Chhattisgarh Police, comprised mainly of local tribals trained to combat Naxals because of their abilities to navigate through the inhospitable terrain and dense forests. This write-up discusses the recent naxal attack on a police convoy in Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh and highlights some of the recent trends of LWE.

The Incident

On the unfortunate afternoon of 26 April 2023, an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) explosion killed ten District Reserve Guard (DRG) security personnel and their driver in Dantewada district, Chhattisgarh, while they were returning from a security operation. According to the news reports, the incident occurred between 1300-1330 hrs (01:00-01:30 PM) on the Aranpur road, nearly 50 kilometres from the District Headquarters.[3] In a video message posted on the ANI’s Twitter handle, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) of Bastar Range, Chhattisgarh, Sundar Raj P, informed that “acting upon the information about Maoists presence in the area, an operation was carried out by the Deputy Inspector General. As they were returning to the Dantewada Headquarters, the team was targeted by the Maoists.” [4]

IED had been planted on the road the vehicle was meant to take for its return. Responding to the attack, reinforcement was immediately rushed to the spot, and the evacuation process of the casualties was carried out. In his tweet, Bharat’s Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi condemned the attack and expressed condolences to brave-hearts’ families. “Strongly condemn the attack on the Chhattisgarh police in Dantewada. I pay my tributes to the brave personnel we lost in the attack. Their sacrifice will always be remembered. My condolences to the bereaved families.” [5]

The DRG personnel killed in the attack have been identified as— i) Joga Sothi, ii) Munnaram Kadti, iii) Santosh Tamo, iv) Dulgo Mandavi, v) Lakhmu Markam, vi) Joga Kawasi, vii) Hariram Mandavi, viii) Rajuram Kartam, ix) Jairam Podiyam, and x) Jagdish Kawasi, and Dhaniram Yadav as the vehicle’s driver.[6] The DRG’s role was significant in several anti-Naxal operations in Dantewada, also known as Naxals’ hotspot area. The DRG security personnel comprised local tribal youth and surrendered Naxals. Of 10 security personnel of DRG killed in the attack, five were surrendered Maoists who had joined the State Police force.

Commenting on the modus operandi of the attack, senior police officials, based on anonymity, confirmed that using the ‘foxhole mechanism’, Naxals planted around 40-50 kilograms of explosives at least five-six feet below the road, making it difficult to spot. “Grass had grown on the layer of the soil under which wire connected to the explosive remains concealed,” informed IGP Sundar Raj P to media members.[7] The IED must have been ‘command IED’, and attackers must have kept an eye on the convoy from a distance and triggered the explosives as soon the vehicle approached the spot.[8] To avoid easy detection by Maoists, security personnel reportedly had switched the police vehicle with a private vehicle, yet Maoists managed to identify the vehicle and carried out an attack.

According to news reports, the preliminary investigation pointed to one of the key Naxalite operatives — Jagdish as the main conspirator of the attack. According to intelligence reports, Jagdish’s father-in-law, Vinod Hemla, who also serves on the Kanger Ghati Area Committee, is a co-conspirator in the attack.[9] Nine Naxals from the CPI (Maoist) Darbha division were named in the FIR (First Information Report) filed at the Aranpur police station by the Bastar Police, who also offered a monetary reward for any information about the Naxals responsible for the attack.

Recent Trends of Left-Wing Extremism

The practical implementation of the National Policy and Action Plan to Handle LWE led to a steady fall in Naxal-related occurrences, with counts much lower in 2022 than in prior years, as indicated in the chart below.

Chart 1 shows 598 Naxal-related incidents were recorded in 2022 compared to 676 incidents in 2021. Until 25 April 2023, 214 similar incidents have been recorded. The decrease in Naxal-related incidents since 2018 can also attribute to the security forces’ more significant presence, improved operations tactics, and welfare programmes initiated by the Central and State government for those residing in LWE-affected areas.

Chart 2, Incidents of violence (2018-2023), summarises the occurrences where Maoists/Naxalites perpetrated terror attacks on security forces and civilians, along with the fatalities that resulted from those incidents. The number of security forces personnel attaining Veergati, civilians killed in attacks by Maoists, and Maoists killed during anti-Naxal operations in LWE-affected areas significantly decreased in 2022. As of the parliamentary reports until 28 February 2023, the number of violent incidents recorded is 37, in which 07 security forces personnel attained Veergati and ten civilians have been killed. There has been a consistent trend in the killing of civilians suspecting them to be police informers and to instil fear among tribal communities.

The data shown in Chart 3 shows a slight decrease in the number of arrests—from 409 in 2021 to 391 in 2022, and 154 until 25 April; while the number of Maoists surrendered increased by approximately 435 percent in 2022, with 2,853 surrendered compared to 533 surrendered in 2021. At least 111 Maoists have surrendered their arms and joined the mainstream as per the data available until April 25, 2023. The increase in the number of Maoists who have turned themselves in demonstrates the effective operational strategies employed locally to persuade ‘brainwashed’ Maoists to quit using violence and join welfare programmes for societal improvement.

Table 1 highlights the data on violent or killing incidents perpetrated by Naxals in Chhattisgarh and one of the districts— Dantewada, from 2020 to 2023. Overall,incidents have been reduced since 2021 in Chhattisgarh and Dantewada. Due to effective synchronisation between security forces, intelligence, and State and Central government, there has been a reduction in fatalities of security forces and civilians. The welfare and development schemes initiated by the Central government and supported by the State government have led to significant counts of surrenders by Naxal since 2018 (please refer to Chart 3). As per data available until 26 April 2023, 96 Naxal-related violent incidents took place in Chhattisgarh, out of which 18 were recorded in Dantewada district, including the recent attack on the same day. So far, 19 security forces personnel have been toVeergati, and 14 civilians lost their lives, whereas three Naxals were also eliminated in various anti-Naxal operations this year.

Way Ahead

The National Policy and Action Plan to Handle LWE, authorised by the Central Government in 2015, suggests a multifaceted strategy that includes building security measures, launching development projects, protecting people's rights and entitlements, etcetera. In LWE-affected areas in 2022, optimistic but varying results were seen. The enormous number of Maoists who surrendered or were arrested may have surprised the cadre, but the group will continue to rebuild their operational capacities in their strongholds. Despite the decrease in the trend of LWE, security forces stationed in LWE-affected regions will face substantial security challenges.

State governments in LWE-affected regions have worked diligently to develop various social initiatives with the help of the Central government, which has aided in tackling the LWE issue. In addition to the flagship efforts of numerous ministries, there are specific plans for LWE-affected areas, concentrating on strengthening telecommunications, expanding the road network, empowering education, and financial inclusion. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) holds regular meetings to review the LWE situation and ensure that MHA-led schemes such as Security Related Expenditure (SRE), Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS), Special Central Assistance (SCA) for LWE-affected districts are effectively implemented. According to the data presented in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Parliament) on 28 March 2023, from 2019-2020 to 2022-2023, ₹ 2053.13 crores has been released to the States to improvise any shortcomings in public infrastructure and services under the Special Central Assistance (SCA). Effectively implementing these welfare schemes reduced most LWE-affected districts from 35 in April 2018 to 25 in July 2021.[10]

Amid ongoing significant G20 events, Bharat cannot afford any security lapses or major terror incidents— orchestrated by Islamic extremism or LWE, as this may harm our goals at the global platform. Along with strengthened anti-Naxal operations and effective welfare programmes in place, the media must disseminate knowledge about implemented welfare programmes in local languages and dialects. The function of the media will be to promote policies and to build State-Citizen trust. There is also a dire need to control the ‘urban’ LWE/Maoist sympathisers who misuse the Constitutional Right— “freedom of expression” in order to twist any societal issue and malign the image of the Central/State government. Law enforcement agencies must monitor and hold such ‘Maoist’ ideologues accountable for their anti-Bharat activities, including dissemination of misinformation.


[1]Sanskrit shlok. Brah.Ma. Available from: https://brah.ma/shlok/simhavatsarvavegena-patantyarthe
[2] “Chhattisgarh attack: ‘400 Maoists ambushed security personnel from three sides’”, The Times of India, 04 April 2021, accessed on 28 April 2023, available from: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/chhattisgarh-attack-400-maoists-ambushed-security-personnel-from-three-sides/articleshow/81897693.cms
[3]Naidu, Jayprakash S, and Mahender Singh Manral. “Chhattisgarh Maoist attack: of 10 slain soldiers, 5 were surrendered Naxals who joined State police force”, The Indian Express, 27 April 2023, accessed on 27 April 2023, available from: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/chhattisgarh-jawan-civilian-killed-in-maoist-attack-in-dantewada-8577203/
[4]Press Trust of India (@PTI_News). Tweet. 26 April 2023, 04:03 PM IST, available from: https://twitter.com/PTI_News/status/1651172542210781186; “Dantewada IED blast kills 10 security personnel: A timeline of similar Naxal attacks since 2009”, The Indian Express, 27 April 2023, accessed on 27 April 2023, available from: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ten-policemen-killed-ied-blast-naxals-chhattisgarh-dantewada-timeline-8577402/
[5]Narendra Modi (@narendramodi), Tweet, 26 April 2023, 04:52 PM IST, available from: https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1651185007694868481; “PM condemns the attack on the Chhattisgarh police in Dantewada”, Press Information Bureau- Prime Minister’s Office, 26 April 2023, accessed on 27 April 2023, available from: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1919871
[6]Naidu, Jayprakash S, and Mahender Singh Manral. “Chhattisgarh Maoist attack: of 10 slain soldiers, 5 were surrendered Naxals who joined State police force”. Please refer to endnote 2.
[7]Rawat, Megha. “Chhattisgarh Naxal Attack: Republic accesses photo of mastermind behind blast in Dantewada”, Republic World, 30 April 2023, accessed on 30 April 2023, available from: https://www.republicworld.com/india-news/general-news/chhattisgarh-naxal-attack-republic-accesses-photo-of-mastermind-behind-blast-in-dantewada-articleshow.html
[8]Naid, Jayprakash S and Mahender Singh Manral. Please refer to the Endnote 5.
[9]Rawat, Megha. “Chhattisgarh Naxal Attack: Republic accesses photo of mastermind behind blast in Dantewada”, Please refer to the Endnote 6.
[10] “SCA for LWE affected districts”, Lok Sabha Unstarred Question no. 4464, 28 March 2023, accessed on 29 April 2023, available from: https://sansad.in/getFile/loksabhaquestions/annex/1711/AU4464.pdf

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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