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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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Army deployment in Combating Maoists  
 
 

The decision of the Cabinet Committee of Security not to use the army in a combat role in the operations against the Maoists is welcome. The Home Ministry has been pressing for some time for a more active role of the army. The earlier proposal to deploy Rashtriya Rifle Battalions of the Army in some of the affected areas was not accepted by the army on grounds of insufficiency of troops. It was also felt that this will expand the areas of conflict, cause avoidable collateral damage and spawn other problems. When the proposal was initially mooted by the Home Ministry, the AIR Chief Marshall Nayak had pointed out that Army, Navy and AIR Force are not trained for limited lethality.

Already army is overstretched and its reluctance to be dragged into another internal security duty beyond the existing ones in J&K and Northeast is justified. While answering a question in Parliament, a few years ago, the Defence Minister had averred that 1,20,000 army personnel are deployed for counter-insurgency operations. In addition, 65 battalions of the armys counter insurgency force Rashtriya Rifles had been deployed in J&K and 31 out of 46 battalions of the Assam rifles in the Northeast. The secondary role of internal security duty does hamper the armys primary role of defending the country against external aggression. Prolonged deployment for internal security duty reduces, "rest and recoup," tenures of the army and affect their efficiency and morale. The anti-Maoists operations are going to be a long-drawn affair and will need prolonged deployment of the army over vast forest areas. There are also other complexities. The army has pointed out that the troops cannot be deployed for active operations without adequate legal protection through the implementation of The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSP) and other related instruments. Again, the Maoists will not be unhappy if the armed forces are deployed against them. It will be an acknowledgement of their power and reach and will add to their aura of invincibility. They will fabricate stories of armys atrocities as the insurgents have done elsewhere to further demoralize the troops. Tribal populations in many affected areas will be alienated.

The Home Ministry also wanted de-mining operations as one of the important tasks to be assigned to the army, but the armys view is that the de-mining cannot be segregated as an operational task since no area is permanently mined. The Maoists make use of mines and IEDs as when they feel necessary and hence the forces operating in the areas have to develop own capacities for de-mining operations.

So far the Centres operational strategy has been to concentrate its forces in the areas of Maoist domination and attempt to reclaim the areas from them. But the Maoists constitute a faceless enemy who will never confront the state in its areas of strength. In campaign or attrition, they target the areas where the force is dispersed or the strength of the force is reduced.

A revised strategy is now being worked out by the government to confront the Maoists. The involvement of the army will by and large limited to the training of the personnel of the police and para-military forces, particularly in jungle warfare.

Meanwhile, the Maoist threat has become more serious and sinister. The current attrition rate in the counter insurgency operations favours the Maoists. It is estimated that 170 security forces personnel were killed as against 108 Maoists during the first five months of 2010 and in 2009, 312 security forces personnel were killed as against 204 Maoists. It is also seen that the earlier reluctance of the Maoists not to target innocent civilians is yielding place to senseless violence and callous disregard for civilian lives with a view to discrediting the governments, and creating a feeling in the minds of the people that the state authorities are not in a position to protect them.

In any effective counter insurgency operations against the Maoists the police has to be given primacy. Experience of counter-terrorist operations in different parts of the country shows that the police have to be in the forefront of successful operations against the terrorists. In States like Punjab, Andhra, and Tripura where anti-Maoist operations have been successfully conducted, the police have played a leading role. The final responsibility for the maintenance of peace and order and countering the terrorists was vested in the superintendent of the police in the district. The army and para-military forces wherever deployed, cooperated and coordinated with the strategies evolved under the command of the police. Of course, there was vast augmentation of police strength and capabilities through training, acquisition of weapons and equipments, mobility and fortification of the police stations. Trained, well-drilled and well-equipped Anti-Terrorists Units (Greyhound in Andhra) were set up to conduct intelligence-based operations against the enemy. These successful operations threw the Maoists off-balance and put them in disarray. Small mobile units were better able to move in jungles and launch surprise attacks. The police were able to gather better and more reliable intelligence from the local people than the personnel of the army and para-military forces who do not belong to the area. In this connection the fact to be borne in mind is that the counter terrorism and counter-insurgency operations are small commanders' war and they have to be empowered. Force capabilities at Thana, Post, Company and platoon level (in the case of CPMFs) have to be strengthened. They must have adequate tactical and technological capabilities to respond promptly and adequately.

Unfortunately, police forces in many of the states rocked by Maoist terrorism are in a poor state of health. There are a large number of vacancies at Police station and supervisory levels. Police forces have to be quickly revamped, retrained and de-politicized and this is not going to be an easy job. There is unwillingness of State governments to carry out police reforms and implement the directives of the Supreme Court in the case of Prakash Singh vs. Union of India. Most of the States have not so far segregated law and order and investigative functions of the police.

To tackle the Maoists, the State could either follow "dryingup the swamp" approach by gaining control of the areas like Bastar, Malkangiri etc or adopt "outsider-in" approach by stabilizing the moderately affected areas and then trying to converge on the most troubled areas. Perhaps the latter approach will bring greater dividends because it would be possible to deploy government resources properly and judiciously to improve the lot of the common people and win then over. In Andhra, roads, police stations, schools and government offices were created in the northern forest belt adjoining Chhatisgarh. The State had reclaimed these areas earlier occupied by the Maoists. Thus for successfully combating the Maoist menace in the affected states there is need to modernize police force and revamp intelligence apparatus. There is need for building of roads and improve the range and quality of government services. This will require not only massive central funding but also close coordination between the centre and affected states. Unfortunately, the required coordination and identity of approach is missing.

In Tripura also the police and the security forces have been able to contain three decades old insurgency in the state. The Chief Minister of State Manik Sarkar provided the excellent political leadership. Armed action was followed by appropriate socio-economic measures to alleviate the distress of the common people. There was constant endeavour not to allow human rights violations by the security forces.

The success of the Maoist operations is causing concern outside the country. Fears and misgivings were expressed by security experts in the Asian Security Conference at Singapore regarding the security of India's nuclear arsenal if the country is unable to reverse the success of the Maoists. It was pointed out by the National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon that the Maoist threat, though serious should not be exaggerated. It is a rural-based insurgency with little support in the urban areas and it is an India movement with an Indian agenda and not a global movement with a global agenda. It is yet to graduate to the level of a mass uprising. It is possible to overcome the threat and break the back of the movement but a series of well calculated and determined steps have to be taken for this purpose. There are no quick fixes. It is going to be a long drawn affair.


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

 
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