Trained police personnel needed to fight the Maoists

Trained police personnel needed to fight the Maoists

During the current month itself, more than 20 policemen across the country have been killed while on duty. Of them, 19 lost their lives in Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra to a well planned Naxal attack. Police Inspector Francis Indhudar of Ranchi was kidnapped and beheaded by Naxals. On Oct 20, a group of Naxals raided a police station in West Midnapur district, killed 2 police personnel and abducted the station house officer A N Dutta, apart from looting fire arms from the station.

The frequent attacks on police by the Maoists are the main cause of increase in deaths of police personnel. In fact, the police and civilian casualties due to Maoist violence far exceed such casualties in J&K and North East operations put together.

After the Gadchiroli incident, the cabinet sub committee on security decided that the operation against Maoists would be intensified and that there would be a coordinated approach between the Centre and the affected states. Around 70,000 troops would be deployed to fight Maoists in at least nine states severely affected by Naxalism.

It was also decided that a police team from one state should not have problems entering the neighbouring state when they are chasing the Maoists. The committee felt that once Maoists are cleared off from a particular area, quick developmental work should be undertaken in that area so as to ensure that the Maoists do not return. The operations against Maoists may begin any time now.

Fighting the Maoists is not an easy task. In their organisational structure they have a central committee, zonal committees, state committees, regional committees and also Dalams. The Dalams operate at the grassroots level. They are supported by various frontal organisations. These organisations are a link between the Dalams and the state leadership. The Maoists also have a separate military unit and are trained in jungle warfare. They are adept at guerrilla tactics and hence even if they are smaller in number, they can take on forces which are bigger.

Maoists have an excellent intelligence network. This is because many of their sympathisers are overground and operate in cities. The frontal organisations provide them regular information. The informant network of Maoists is also quite good as they instill both sympathy and fear among the people of the area in which they operate. This helps them plan their attacks meticulously.

Informants’ plight

Maoists are also adept at neutralising the police informants. In Gadchiroli, before attacking the police party, the Maoists beheaded a so called police informant. In Chikmagalur district some years ago a suspected police informant was killed. Because of such brutal attacks, while they can get information about movement of security forces, security forces are unable to get precise and actionable intelligence about them.

Maoists have also a tendency to lure policemen into traps. They lay mines on approach roads to their hideouts months in advance. Sometimes for years together, the mines lay under the ground. They create an incident which is bound to bring the police to that area.  Once the police party reaches the area the mines are detonated, the party surrounded and attacked. In fact, the large number of casualties in Maoist attacks is only due to the guerrilla tactics being used.

Many a time the police parties which are tasked to fight extremists are also not properly trained, equipped and supported. For example, policemen sent to fight Maoists in West Bengal didn’t have toilets where they were camping. Lonely policemen who ventured out in the early morning to answer the call of nature were easy targets to the Maoists.

Policemen by nature have a feeling that they are invincible and because of this they do not take precautions to protect themselves. A number of policemen have been killed in Orissa because basic precautions were not taken. Many a time, because of the demands of the situation, a large number of policemen are taken off from their regular duties and put to fight the Maoists. Such persons are ill-equipped to fight the highly motivated enemy.

In order to minimise police casualties, it is necessary that operations against Maoists are undertaken jointly by three or four affected states and the Central forces and those police forces are properly trained in jungle warfare and adequately equipped. Logistics play a very important role in any operations. This cannot and should not be ignored. Policemen and women across the country are not trained to fight enemies, because they have to deal with the civilians. Hence a special force like Grey Hounds in Andhra Pradesh need to be created, trained and motivated. Only then the police casualties will come down.

(The writer is DGP, CID, Training & EOW, Bangalore)