Sukma attack: Why CRPF continues to repeat old mistakes

Sanjiv Krishan Sood
Sanjiv Krishan SoodMar 28, 2018 | 10:49

Sukma attack: Why CRPF continues to repeat old mistakes

In a repeat “tragedy of errors” nine personnel of CRPF lost their lives and several others received serious injuries in Sukma in Chhattisgarh as Maoists blew up a mine-protected vehicle (MPV) on March 13.

At the outset, my condolences to the bereaved families of the soldiers who lost their lives because - let me not mince words - of the continued callousness of CRPF authorities in ensuring the operational preparedness and upgrading fighting capabilities of the personnel, in yet another incident in this very same area where they have suffered heavy losses in the recent past too.


It transpires that these personnel were travelling in a mine-protected vehicle and were going on leave as would appear from the photographs which show that the deceased were all in civilian clothing. It also transpires that they were travelling on a stretch of road which had not been protected or cleared by a road opening party. To my utter disbelief they were also not carrying weapons.



In my fairly lengthy experience of donning the uniform, I have not heard of a security force worth its salt and having supposed “expertise” and years of experience of operating in such conditions, move troops in such utterly clumsy manner.

It is beyond comprehension as to how such elementary mistakes are allowed by those responsible to supervise them in an area which is notorious for frequent Maoist attacks and where they have suffered heavy causalities in the past.

Most important lesson in battle drill in any operation is to keep one leg rooted to the ground which for common understanding implies that all moves of a group are covered by another group by fire and observation to support it in contingency.

The most obvious failure of commanders is that they allowed a single MPV to move. Had there been another accompanying MPV, it would have come in support and caused causalities to the Maoists. Secondly, why was the vehicle allowed to move out without confirmation of the road being cleared of any threat, that is, without placing the road opening party?


Immediately after the last such incident in Sukma, I came across an article lamenting the inability of the government to provide MPVs to CRPF and alluding that this was a major factor for the failure. It is pertinent that the forces must be provided with all necessary equipment. But, it is equally important to ensure that the men handling the equipment are also properly trained to operate it. That the commanders did not know how to effectively employ MPV is apparent in this case.

MPV is just that - a vehicle with protections from explosives and small arms fire. It is not expected to withstand the explosion of a few kgs of explosives buried below the surface of a road. That is why preventive actions like road opening party, ensuring movement in strength, following proper drills in contingencies are extremely important.

Having effective intelligence machinery in place is extremely essential. It was amusing and at the same time saddening to listen to the special DG of the CRPF, responsible for the area, undermining the importance of intelligence by saying words to the effect that the CRPF was operating every day in the area and intelligence did not matter. Such utter contempt for intelligence is bound to result in failures.


Repeated occurrence of such incidents reflects very poorly on leadership of the organisation. It also speaks poorly of the operational philosophy and work ethos of the organisation besides pointing towards serious deficiency in the training regimen of the troops and commanders. It seems that the CRPF has not carried out analysis of past such incidents and included them as part of training curriculum.

An organisation which fails to learn from it’s past mistake is condemned to fail again and again.

I am unable to resist the temptation to refer to my own experience of Assam and Manipur in 1999-2000. I had in open sainik sammelan made it clear to the troops that operating in such areas carries the risk of death, but I won’t permit death of anyone under my command either due to my foolishness of planning and not anticipating contingencies or the foolishness of my troops in following drills.

I can proudly state that my unit came out unscathed and, in fact, won three gallantry medals.

It appears that the CRPF is repeatedly failing to learn from past mistakes or it perhaps gets numbed and becomes complacent by absence of an incident over a period of a few months and considers it as success of the domination pattern adopted by it.

The government on its part is busy touting smart acronyms like “SAMADHAN” hoping that these would resolve the festering issue. Corresponding action on ground is lacking.

I hope that I am proved wrong, but if things don’t improve quickly, a few months down the line we may see a repeat the tragedy of March 13. 



Last updated: March 28, 2018 | 10:49
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