(Eds: Adds details) Raipur, Apr 6 (PTI) Dreaded Maoist leader Madvi Hidma has emerged as the mastermind of the last weekend's massacre of 22 security personnel by Naxals in Chhattisgarh's Bastar region and the audacious attack has brought him into the limelight once again.
His age and looks are still a matter of speculation with security agencies suggesting he is around 45 years old.
They just have a bundle of old photos of a young man who they believe is Hidma, who carries a cash reward of Rs 40 lakh for capture in Chhattisgarh.
Last Saturday's operation by security forces was aimed at cornering Hidma, but unfortunately it proved to be a meticulously planned trap that culminated in heavy casualties for the CRPF and the state police along the border of Sukma and Bijapur districts.
An elusive figure, Hidma is a top leader of the outlawed Naxal outfit CPI (Maoist) and has been on the radar of security agencies for many years.
According to police, Hidma heads the Peoples Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) battalion no. 1, the strongest military formation of the rebels in Dandakaranya which covers parts of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana and Maharashtra besides the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.
At a time when the activities of rebels in the Bastar region were appearing to be on the wane, Hidma hit back in a brutal fashion to make his presence felt and prove that the armed movement was very much alive in Chhattisgarh.
Believed to be the chief architect of various deadly attacks on security forces in Chhattisgarh in the past decade and beyond, Hidma is being blamed for the April 3 ambush in the Bastar region which left 22 CRPF and police personnel dead and 31 others injured.
Tekalguda village, where Maoists ambushed security forces, is just 6 km away from Puvarti, believed to be the native village of Hidma.
He is also a member of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) of Maoists which has been instrumental in carrying out several deadly attacks on security forces in south Bastar.
Hidma joined the Naxal movement in the late 1990s as a ground-level organiser.
He came under the scanner of security agencies for the first time after the 2010 Tadmetla attack in Chhattisgarh wherein 76 troopers were killed.
He had then assisted another dreaded Maoist leader Papa Rao in executing the attack. Since then, his name crops up every time there is a major attack on security forces in Bastar.
Well trained in guerrilla warfare, Hidma carries an AK-47 rifle and his cadres are equipped with sophisticated weapons. A four-layered ring of armed cadres around him has kept him away from the reach of security forces.
For the last few years, security forces have been consistently carrying out intelligence-based operations in interiors of Bijapur and Sukma to target him, a police officer said.
However, his deep knowledge of the forested area and tough terrain have helped him to avoid getting caught, the officer said.
However, recent operations by security forces in the core areas of Maoists have created immense pressure on senior leaders, including Hidma, he said.
Hidma has developed an image of a hero among his cadres and eliminating him would be a major step towards weakening the Maoist movement in Bastar, the officer said.
Hidma has been named in a slew of major Naxal strikes, including the Jhiram valley attack in Darbha, Bastar in 2013 that killed frontline senior Congress leaders like Mahendra Karma, Nand Kumar Patel and V C Shukla.
Another strike bearing his imprint was the Burkapal ambush of April 2017 that claimed the lives of 24 CRPF personnel.
Accused of murder of several security personnel, Hidma, mostly confines himself to the south Sukma region which is his base area, the officials said.
His wife Raje is also an active member of the CPI (Maoist) and has been linked to several major Maoist strikes, they said. PTI TKP RSY RSY