More than 200 policemen lost their lives fighting Maoists in central India's killing fields this year. The number of Naxalites they killed was a little above half this figure, according to official records.
The year 2007 saw the highest body loss suffered by security forces in many years in the battle against Maoist guerrillas, whom Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called ' the single biggest security challenge to the Indian state'.
Singh told a conference of ministers this month that the Naxals – who were consolidating, getting stronger and more confident – had developed the capability in some areas to launch frontal attacks on police forces and establishments.
Official figures complied by the Union home ministry for this conference indicate that 214 policemen lost their lives in the first 11 months this year, up from 133 policemen killed during the same period last year and 105 killed in 2003. The number of naxals killed had, however, declined from last year's 239 in 2006 and 216 in 2003, to 129 this year.
The union home ministry has explained the larger number of deaths to better coordinated attacks by the Maoists who have access to enhanced fire power, a militaristic strategy and an enviable ability to analyse adverse situation and devise strategies for counter them.
Vishwa Ranjan, director general of police of Chhattisgarh, where 181 policemen were killed this year, attributed the higher casualties to the series of operations undertaken by the security forces.
"We are trying to enter areas dominated by them… it is natural that the force entering an area held by the other side would have to take a heavier toll," he said, pointing out that the casualties would increase, on both sides, as security forces push their way in.
But the sacrifice, he emphasised, was not in vain. "We reported 66 casualties among naxals as we had to go by the body count. But their literature seized recently indicates they loss about 180 people in the operations," he said.