Armed rebels killed in India's Chhattisgarh ahead of elections

Eastern state has been marred by long-running violent insurgency involving Maoist groups

Maoists train to fight government troops in the jungle 160km from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state, eastern India. AFP
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At least 13 armed rebels were killed in an hours-long gunfight with government forces in Chhattisgarh state, the latest episode in the long-running Maoist insurgency in India.

Indian Maoist Communists, known as Naxalites or Naxals colloquially, have been embroiled in a low-level conflict for decades with the government over indigenous resource rights in mineral-rich eastern India.

The now-waning armed rebellion is at odds with the Indian state and has pledged to overthrow it. Inspired by the Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, armed groups are opposed to the government and democratic elections.

At least 13 armed rebels, including three female fighters, were killed in the 14-hour shoot-out on Tuesday, the region's most senior police officer Sundarraj Pattilingam said.

He said the clash began after police received a tip-off that prominent Maoist leader Papa Rao was in a forest in Lenda village in Bijapur, one of the insurgency's focal points.

Security forces had recovered the bodies of 10 rebels by Tuesday night, with three more found on Wednesday, Mr Pattilingam said.

Police did not comment on the fate of Mr Rao.

Security forces also recovered light machineguns, rifles, ammunition and other weapons during the operation.

Mr Pattilingam said security forces and special teams of police have been deployed to ensure “free and safe" voting in the region, which will go to the polls in the first phase of nationwide general elections on April 19.

Consecutive governments have largely struggled to stop people from joining the insurgency but armed confrontations have decreased considerably.

The number of attacks have dropped 77 per cent since 2010, and the number of annual deaths – of security forces and civilians combined – has declined by about 90 per cent, from 1,005 in 2010 to 98 in 2022, the Home Ministry said.

Six Naxalites were killed in a gunfight with security forces in March in the same district.

At least three security personnel were killed in a shoot-out in January in Chhattisgarh. More than 10 police officers were killed, along with their driver, after their vehicle was blown up by explosives allegedly planted by Maoists in the state in April last year.

Updated: April 03, 2024, 10:47 AM