Forces approaching Naxal Hidma stronghold

A day after the Naxal attack that left three Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) dead and 15 others injured, government officials said that the retaliation came after the central forces moved towards Tekalgudem village, considered among the core areas of wanted Naxal commander Madvi Hidma. The elusive Maoist leader is commander of the first battalion of People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) of CPI(Maoist). He is among the most-wanted Maoists, carrying a reward of Rs 7 lakh by the National Investigation Agency, officials said.

Hidma has been named by the NIA in its charge sheet for his alleged involvement in a series of attacks on security forces. He has multiple aliases (Santosh, Hidmalu, Idmul, Podiyam, Manish, Mandavi, Hidmanna and Deva).

Investigators say Hidma, along with other members of the battalion, provides huge amounts of money to the OGWs (overground workers) to procure material including gelatine sticks, electric detonators, safety fuse and other material and machinery fraudulently from licensed firms in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. “The material is transported through vehicles disguised as forest department vehicles and delivered to Hidma and other Maoists at the Telangana-Chhattisgarh borders area,” according to the NIA.

After Tuesday’s audacious attack, security agencies are trying to ascertain any Intelligence failure ahead of the opening of the new Forward Operating Base (FOB) as many cadres would have gathered to carry out the attack, they added. The area is dominated by the 1st Battalion which is known for executing some of the most audacious attacks on the security forces in Chhattisgarh over the past several years, according to those familiar with the developments.

Over the past five years, the CRPF and BSF have set up a large number of FOBs by area domination in places usually dominated by Maoist by providing road and telecom connectivity in far-flung areas. “More than 150 FOBs have been set up by CRPF and BSF in the past five years which seem to have irked the Naxals as their area is shrinking,” said a senior government official. The FOBs are meant to provide a leg-hold to the security forces operating deep in the LWE-affected territory.

As per the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the number of security forces killed in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas were 53 in 2022 and 61 in 2023. The number of Naxals killed during the same period was 67 in 2022 and 58 in 2023.

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Roy Walsh

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