An April 3 battle with communist rebels in India resulted in 54 casualties for Indian police forces in the latest surge of radical leftist guerilla violence. Maoist insurgents in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh killed 22 paramilitary police troops and wounded another 31. One soldier is still missing. While insurgent casualties are still unknown, the Indian government is simultaneously claiming that the rebels are both losing ground and gaining strength due to the coronavirus upheaval.
Communists are heavily armed
An estimated 400 communist guerillas, carrying Ak-47 rifles and grenade launchers, launched the successful ambush on a large column of the Indian security forces. With firepower between the two sides almost equally matched, the gun battle continued for four hours.
Government forces claim that drone footage revealed the insurgents carrying away a large number of casualties, though an exact count was not possible.
Government and security officials vowed to greatly expand their counter-insurgency operations in Chhattisgarh in response to the attack, claiming that the Maoists represent the largest internal security threat in the country.
A large challenge facing the government will be ensuring that police forces have access to a much more impressive arsenal for the next major engagement with the rebels.
Local forces are currently not equipped heavily enough to decisively fend off the large numbers of well armed insurgents during an attack of this scale, let alone drive them out of their strongholds in the region.
The Indian Home Minister, after visiting with those wounded in the ambush, acknowledged the need to both provide additional resources and develop a new strategy in response to the attack.
Pandemic revives old conflict
Officials in India seemed to be equally concerned with acknowledging the severity of the threat and with emphasizing their ability to handle the situation.
Chhattisgarh holds a vital concentration of valuable mineral resources which India hopes to further develop. The local economy is rapidly expanding thanks to these natural resources, which include large quantities of diamonds and gold.
The communist rebels, however, claim to represent those who have been left behind by the economic boom in the region and in India as a whole. The April 3 ambush is only the latest incident in the decades of low-intensity warfare which has plagued the region.
Maoist forces have allegedly benefited greatly from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has allowed them to attract hundred of new recruits and revive their cause locally.
The communist resurgence in India is evidently the latest conflict which is experiencing a major flare-up due to the heightened tensions which have resulted worldwide from responses to the pandemic.