Upgrade weapons, training to take on Maoists

Upgrade weapons, training to take on Maoists

The attack on a Road Opening Patrol (ROP) of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh on April 24, 2017 in which 25 CRPF men were martyred, has once again brought into focus the need to tackle the Maoist menace with all the force and focus it deserves. With the fire fighting method adopted by both the Centre and the state government, each time an incident of this magnitude takes place, it is going to cost us heavily. An all-out effort to crush the menace is the only course of action.

A series of such aggressive attacks by Maoists on the para-military forces, where the former don’t suffer substantial casualties emboldens the Maoists to plan and carry out more attacks repeatedly on the forces. The message that they send out to the tribals in the Maoists-affected areas is that they are much stronger than the security forces, and the locals therefore have no choice but to support them.

Any challenge to their hegemony in the areas of their dominance is met with a heavy hand. Even on the least of suspicion, the Maoists kill any villager who according to them is an informer. In the process, they infuse an element of terror among the locals thereby cutting off any line of flow of information to the security forces.

On April 27, the Maoists killed two tribals in Malkangiri district in Odisha alleging that they were working for the police. Another tribal was killed five days later on suspicion of being a police informer. Malkangiri district borders the Maoists-affected states of Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.

What assumes importance in the context of series of attacks on the security forces is the need to gear up the intelligence machinery not just of the state agencies, but also the central agencies. Though the CRPF has its own Intelligence School in Gurgaon, the network at the field level leaves much to be desired. Still in nascent stage, it will take a few more years for the CRPF to have its own reliable and effective intelligence set-up. Until then, the central and state agencies will have to offer effective support in garnering and disseminating intelligence.

In the past, the CRPF personnel along with the Jammu and Kashmir Police have carried out several flawless operations against the militants solely on the basis of technical intelligence inputs supported by human intelligence. Similarly, it has effectively curbed militancy in Punjab, Mizoram, Tripura, undivided Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and in other parts of the country.

Hence, to comment that the training in the CRPF is not up to the desired standard is not only far from truth, but reflects poorly on the ignorance of such commentators. If, after every incident, the training aspects are to be adversely commented upon, then it logically follows that the training in army and air force too are far below the desired level, keeping in view the series of attacks that have taken place in their camps and patrols.

Usually, Army officials exploit such opportunities for dumping their veterans into the para-military forces. No doubt that they are well-trained. But they are trained for war against the enemies across the borders. The para-military personnel too are well trained for the role that they are assigned to — dealing with their own countrymen. Any induction of army personnel in the para-military forces would only prove disastrous for the country.
The para-military forces had been involved in several litigations on matters of seniority and promotions when army officers (emergency commissioned officers) were inducted into the forces after the Indo-China war. Matters got settled on their own when the ECOs retired. The powers that be would be well cautioned not to ever consider any induction of Army officers in the para military forces.

Even the best of trained soldiers can err and the recent incidents indicate certain lapses, if we go by the news reports. The fact that the group that came under attack was having food, which made them easy targets, whereby they could not retaliate effectively and immediately, calls for a change in their food habits. There are instances galore in the North-East and even in Jammu and Kashmir where security personnel have been attacked while having meals, leaving them with no time to react.

Mass casualties
Often in such incidents of mass casualties, the surviving personnel start evacuating the injured and the dead though they would themselves be in a daze. That gives the Maoists ample time to make good their escape. Having snatched the weapons and other equipment, they saunter back to their base without the fear of being pursued.

Hot pursuit of the retreating attackers by the security forces needs to be launched immediately after such incidents. Once a contact has been established with the Maoists, it should be brought to its logical conclusion by capturing/eliminating the attackers and recovering the weapons carried away by them. For such “hot pursuit” operations, the specialised units like the Cobras of the CRPF should be pressed into service. Drones that can detect movements of the Maoists could be utilised as also helicopters to drop the personnel strategically around the area.

Supported by the ferocious Malinois dogs that are available with the Cobra Battalions, hot pursuit of fleeing Maoists could yield results. Utmost care would, however, have to be taken to ensure that the routes are not mined. A determined effort to kill/capture the attackers will not only help in recovery of weapons and equipment but also instil a sense of fear among the Maoists.

The police forces of the Maoists-affected states need to be equipped with modern weapons to instil confidence in them. The Chhattisgarh Police have taken a step in this direction by procuring indigenously made 7.62 assault rifles, comparable to the AK-47 rifles, from the Ordnance Factory, Tiruchirapalli. Constant efforts to upgrade the weapons and equipment coupled with appropriate intensive training will go a long way in not only instilling confidence in the state police forces but also in effectively taking on the Maoists.
(The writer is retired Inspector General of Police, CRPF)