Dantewada fiasco: Time to learn hard lessons

Dantewada fiasco: Time to learn hard lessons

Dantewada fiasco: Time to learn hard lessons

 Many experts have attributed it to lack of training in jungle warfare. Before making such assessments, I am not sure whether they are merely talking about this operation or the overall picture.

Such incidents are not always the result of lack of training in jungle warfare, which normally includes various types of training, ranging from the study of jungles to the survival in jungles. I am not sure whether such capabilities have a direct correlation with this particular ambush.

It was a typical guerrilla operation by naxals and it incorporated all its features like:
* An element of surprise, which is the key
* Attacking the opponent through sudden appearance and disappearance at the place of operation
* Destroying the targets and seizing the equipment
* Place and time chosen with precise calculation
The above features of guerrilla warfare were adequately and precisely used by the naxals in this operation. It can only be fought with the help of anti-guerrilla warfare training. It is essential that any regular force must prepare to disperse and form guerrilla troops when it is separated from the main troops and it must be able to reunite for the ordinary battle.

The CRPF, on the other hand, is trained to use combat steam in a company, battalion and at times in super battalion strengths. But the element of guerrilla warfare can consciously be imbibed by these units with effective training. Reports indicate that the CRPF unit was attacked from three sides. It is unimaginable that a trained guerrilla company can be surrounded from three sides at any ambush point.

It is very apparent that the CRPF men were not mentally prepared for such an attack. Reports indicate that 21 AK47 rifles, 6 LMGs and a good number of other weapons had been taken away by the naxals which is typical of any guerrilla operation. But a trained soldier would have understood the motive of insurgents and prevented such losses.
The possibility of simultaneous attacks by the naxals had been talked about for a long time and the month April did see two incidents. After the first attack, the field formation should have been alerted to counter any such possibility.  But the result indicates something else.

Before being pressed into operation, it appears that the CRPF personnel’s familiarisation with the area was only through maps. Any map reading gives incomplete picture of the reality. In case of the new terrain, it was incumbent on the part of CRPF commanders to have taken sufficient precautions — particularly near potential ambush points.

Dividing unit into various sub groups occupying vantage points is one of the important features of anti-guerrilla warfare. Such a drill was perhaps totally ignored. It is apparent that the CRPF unit was either over-confident or was not mentally prepared to undertake this operation.

The success of guerrilla warfare largely depends on foreign aid in the form of equipment and material. We need to find out about the foreign powers, which are aiding and abetting the naxal movement.

It is high time that we started realising that armed forces may be playing into the hands of naxals. A typical strategy of guerrilla is to weaken the enemy by spreading them out in all directions and to tie them down as much as possible by forcing them into permanent bases.

It will be a serious mistake to increase the number of bases and to try and maintain a supply line into the jungles. We will have to train our men for jungle survival adopting guerrilla tactics and keeping the movement least visible in operational areas. It is an irony that a large number of so-called experts believe in brute show of strength. But it is only the adoption of effective lessons of guerrilla warfare and training that can bring success.

It is important not to make audacious statements like ‘defend every inch of land,’ ‘never withdraw,’ or ‘die with courage’ which do not serve any battle strategy. Such exaggerated notions will demand a very high price and can cause the guerrilla war to fail.
For these operations to succeed, it is necessary to fix the time limit with various index evaluation techniques. Planning and patience are needed in a guerrilla warfare. Exaggerated comments emanating from not very sound quarters are counter-productive in such operations.

A word of wisdom and caution for the people who are adopting the naxal ideology and guerrilla war techniques: this is a war, destructive in nature. It is not only going to cause intensive and extensive destruction of material things, but will result in massive psychological, political and social damage.

I may say that success of the armed forces lies in planning, training and patience and those who put their foot in their mouth must take hard lessons from the Dantewada incident.
(The writer is an IPS officer of Karnataka cadre)