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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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Deadly Maoists Attack in Chhattisgarh-By Sankar Sen


Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences
Former Director General, National Human Rights Commission
Former Director, National Police Academy

The deadly attack on the Congress Yatra at Sukma in Chhattisgarh was a display of military capability and finesse that the Maoists have acquired over the years. Attack by the Maoists on the Yatra organized by the Congress was carefully planned and executed with military precision. They had taken position on the high ground overlooking the narrow road, triggered explosives to halt the movement of vehicles and then swooped down on the targets and opened deadly fire. They had in their possession sophisticated weapons and a state-of-the-art communication system. There were no less than 28 casualties and 50 people were injured. Those killed included Mahendra Karma, architect of the Salwa Judum movement, the Congress Chief Nandkishore Patel and his son. The former Union Minister V.C. Shukla who sustained bullet injuries later on expired. The Maoists acted like heartless butchers. They killed the son of the Congress party chief by striking with an axe on his head before his father’s eyes. Karma’s body had about 70 stab wounds and over 50 bullet wounds. The Maoists danced in jubilation over his dead body.

The Congress has accused the state administration of not providing adequate security cover, though some prior information on the likelihood of an attack on the Yatra was received. Details of omission and commission will hopefully be uncovered during the NIA probe and the judicial enquiry. The Maoists used hand-grenade, AK-47, 2-inch mortars and other weapons, but the security forces accompanying the convoy had only pistols and stenguns. But they fought heroically and were able to hold back the attackers, according to various accounts, for quite some time and could be overrun only when they ran out of ammunition. Available facts indicate that certain standard operating procedures (SOPs) were not followed, with disastrous consequences. A large convoy was permitted to move through dense forest areas without adequate security cover.

During the last two years there had been a decline in Maoist attacks and fatalities. The number of incidents involving Maoist violence declined from 1760 in 2011 to 1415 in 2012. Casualties of the security forces had also come down from 142 (2011) to 114 (2012). The Maoists had also suffered attrition of their top leadership and were determined to demonstrate their strength by staging dreadful attacks to galvanize and boost their sagging morale of their cadres.

Unfortunately, a clear and coherent strategy to deal with the Maoists menace is yet to emerge. More than sixty years after independence, the country has no clear anti-terror policy and no long-term plan to counter the Maoists insurgency, though the Prime Minister had clearly stated that Maoist insurgency constitutes the gravest security threat before the country. The former Home Minister Chidambaram’s “clear, hold and develop” policy was pragmatic. There should be “drying up the swamp “approach by getting control over the Maoist dominated areas like Bastar, Malkangiri to be followed by a period of sustained economic development. However, the Maoists who are often romanticized as pro-poor and pro-tribal will not allow any economic development of the areas until the security forces push them out and establish full control over the areas. The Union Home Minister has advised the state governments to follow the Andhra Model. In Andhra the police and the specialized agencies like the Greyhound has been able to effectively thwart the Maoists and the key to their success has been positive police action backed by intelligence. In Andhra Pradesh roads, schools and dispensaries and police stations were set up in the areas reclaimed from the Maoists.

Unfortunately, operations against the Maoists in many states have seriously suffered because of lack of coordination between the centre and the states. Earlier the operation “Greenhunt” against the Maoists in West Bengal and Jharkhand was not very successful because states dragged their feet due to political and electoral considerations. In the recent conference of the Chief Ministers even Union Home Minister emphasized the need for interstate coordination at state, district and police station level without any blame game. One useful strategy suggested by Shri Vijay Kumar, former DG-CRPF, is to stitch up the borders of affected states with CRPF acting as BSF for internal security duties. The strategy, according to him, had paid excellent dividends in the past. There can be continuous interstate raids to nab and throw the Maoists off balance.

There is no gainsaying the fact that some useful steps have, of late, been taken to combat the Maoists. Rs. 200 crore has been sanctioned by the centre in raising anti-Maoist Special Forces in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha on lines of Andhra Grey Hounds. Some of these anti-naxal forces, particularly in Odisha, have given a good account of themselves in combating the Maoists.

Liberated Zones

It is also true that in Maoist affected states the police and security forces have successfully pushed the Maoists back in many areas. But in states like Chhattisgarh there are liberated zones in Bijapur, Sukma where the Maoists have entrenched themselves. Poor connectivity in terms of roads and communication hamper movements of the security forces. CRPF personnel in many of these areas remain confined to their camps. UAV predators, described as ‘game changers’ to locate the Maoists, have not so far been usefully utilized. Even if the insurgents are located it would be difficult to rush force through hills and jungles to engage them. ‘Janatana Sarkar’ set up by the Maoists in the liberated zones, pay only lip service to the villagers to regain their support but, ruthlessly deal with the dissenters. And their armed cadres unleash terror at will. They have formed two military battalions, each with strength of not less than 250 armed cadres.

At present there are about 25 battalions of CRPF (25,000) in the Bastar region. It has been seriously suggested by some experts that CRPF is battle-fatigued and hence army should be deployed for clearing and reclaiming the liberated zones held by the Maoists. Swift surgical operations by the army will deliver knock-out blows to the Maoists. So far army’s help is confined to training the personnel of the paramilitary forces, particularly in jungle warfare. But really the deployment of the army for swift operations in liberated zones will not help. The Maoists will not be unhappy if armed forces are deployed against them. It will be an acknowledgement of their power and add to their invincibility. Prolonged deployment of the army for long drawn out operations will further alienate the tribal people and the Maoists also will fabricate and circulate stories of army’s atrocities.

In effective counter-terrorist operations the police have to be given the primacy. In States like Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura where counter-terrorists operation had been successfully conducted the police helped by para-military forces have played a leading role. For areas reclaimed from the Maoists immediate steps for socio-economic development have to be taken. And for this a political agreement with the states is to be arrived at to bring the civil administration and law and order under an overall commander who could ever be nominee of the concerned state government.

The Maoists have declared war against the state and they have to be put down with a firm hand. There can be no equivocation on this point. The all-party meeting on countering Maoists violence has unanimously adopted the resolution that the insurgency of the Maoists in pursuit of their misguided goal of overthrowing parliamentary democracy in the country constitutes a threat that has to be firmly fought back. It is hoped that there will now be full political support without demur for the operation of the security forces. Maoists’ decision to launch attack on political leaders may boomerang on them. However, combating Maoist insurgency is going to be a long drawn affair, there are no quick fixes.

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