Naxal carnage: police set-up needs revamp

Last Updated 06 July 2010, 17:21 IST

In the current police set-up, in the country, it is the state police which is responsible for establishing law and order in the state. The Centre helps in terms of providing additional paramilitary forces where the situation so warrants. The responsibility of deployment of these additional forces remains with the state police officials on the premise that they know the local situation better. In this deployment, which is done based on the local needs, it results more often than not in the para military battalion getting deployed in penny packets.

Jungle warfare

This system may work for a short while in common law and order problem areas. However, operations against well-trained and well-equipped naxal guerrillas is a different ball game. It is full scale jungle warfare and not a simple law and order deployment. It requires cohesiveness, mutual trust among sub-units and a resolute leadership. This is not possible if the force gets divided into small sub-units.

The naxals know the lay of the local terrain and have full local support. They remain mingled with the local population like any other local person. They hide their weapons in safe catches. This way they keep a constant watch on the new arrivals of the Central forces. Besides they have informers in the local police.

The paramilitary forces coming from outside lack the knowledge of the local terrain and customs. They also do not have their own local intelligence grid. Needless to say for this knowledge of local terrain and intelligence they have to perforce bank on the local police force. The problem with the local police is that in all 83 naxal affected districts spanning states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Maharashtra, the local police has become ineffective. At night they lock themselves up in their respective ‘thanas’.
Needless to say despite their tall claims they are not in a position to provide any real-time actionable intelligence.

This lack of actionable local intelligence, lack of proper training, lack of long-term strategic planning and inadequate leadership are the main reasons for the current large scale massacre of paramilitary forces in these operations, which are almost a full scale war. After every such massacre the blame game starts. This is being paid for by the valiant constables of these forces with their lives.

Another weak area is the deployment of these incoming paramilitary forces. These areas are decided by the local authorities having little empathy with the ethos of the incoming force. These types of operations are highly stressful and the constables’ need adequate time and facilities for rest and relief when they are not operating. Most of the time these camps lack even the basic amenities. Many a time while selecting the camp sites the local authorities do not even bother to check their defensibility from sudden surprise attacks. Needless to say suitable changes need be implemented if we are serious in winning the war against naxals and reducing the casualties.

As of today in the Jungle Warfare School at Warangte and Kanker, the Army is imparting training to the selected constables and lower rung officers from the police and paramilitary forces. However, senior officers of these forces — who lack adequate knowledge of planning and execution of these type of high density operations — continue to remain untrained. With followers trained and leaders untrained there is a total mismatch.
(The writer is a retired brigadier)

(Published 06 July 2010, 17:21 IST)

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