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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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Brutal killing of 76 CRP personnel including a Deputy and Assistant Commandant by the Maoists is a game-changer. It reveals the organizational strength, the level of preparedness and the savagery of the Maoists and sends a grim message that the Para-military forces and the state police are not fully trained and equipped to take on them.

CRPF personnel were ambushed in the thick of Mukrana forest in Dantewara District of Chattisgarh. A major portion of Dantewara district of South Bastar is a so called a liberated zone where there is hardly any physical presence of the civil government. The Maoists run a parallel government of their own. It seems that CRPF men fell into a well-laid trap. Reports indicate that some wrong information about the Maoists' training camp inside the deep forest area was planted and the CRPF men of 62-battalion went to the forest for a raid. They came under withering fire while returning to the base camp. Anticipating that once under fire CRPF men would seek cover under rocks and trees, the Maoist had planted pressure mines under these features. As anticipated, many CRPF men seeking cover under rocks and trees when firing began were blown up by mines and others were shot by the Maoists who had surrounded them. Events raise fears that there could be moles in the CRPF camp.

In anti-Maoist operations the CRPF have to work jointly with the local police who are familiar with the terrain and the forest routes. Unfortunately, only two senior constables were accompanying them. This clearly indicates that lack of proper coordination between the CRPF and the local police. It was hardly a "joint operation" as claimed by the Home Minister. Now a former DG of BSF and a very capable officer, Shri Rammohan has been asked by the government to enquire into this ignominious episode. It is hoped that the report will reveal the sequence of events and the operational blunders.

The cold-blooded massacre of the CRPF jawans has provoked widespread indignation against the savagery of the Maoists. There is insistent demand from many quarters for using the army and the air force for anti-Maoist operations. But any knee-jerk reactions instead of helping will further compound the problem. The time for rhetoric is over and a very clear and hardheaded strategy for countering the Maoist threats has to be worked out

Maoists today are a far cry from the ill equipped Naxalites of the 1970s. They are highly organized and motivated. Their leaders are young and they have nearly 22,000 arm cadres spread over seven states. They had an annual budget of 60 crores in 2007, 42 crores were earmarked for purchase of arms and ammunition and explosives and Rs. 2 crores for intelligence. Their collection has now significantly increased. Extortions from contractors, mine owners, tendu leave traders, and sandalwood smugglers are their main sources of funding. Though the notion of red corridor from Andhra to Nepal is exaggerated, it has to be admitted that the Maoists had been able to significantly expand their areas of militancy during the last few years. Unlike terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and the North-east, which are border-states, Maoism is threatening to spread into the countrys heartland which is considered as its treasure trove. They have got nearly 100 training camps and many of their armed cadres are reportedly being trained by ex-army officers.

Paramilitary forces particularly the CRPF, is in the forefront in the operations against the Maoists. CRPF though a trained and disciplined force, has virtually no experience in jungle warfare. For them, as admitted by its senior officers, it is an unfamiliar operation in an unknown terrain. They have to be trained and inoculated in jungle warfare to give battle to an enemy living in forest over years and who have thorough knowledge of the terrain. Hence, in the area domination operations some operational omissions leading to irreparable loss of lives are inescapable. However, lessons have to be learnt quickly and mistakes should not be repeated.

Chidambaram has said that though the government had not so far used the air power against the Maoist insurgents but if necessary, it will revisit the mandate and make necessary changes. Use of air power may not be on the cards given the risk of collateral damage and objections of the air force. But air crafts can be used for surveillance, reconnaissance and pinpointed operations. The government agencies have just started using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to survey the affected areas, locate the hideouts and send messages to the nearby forces to mount counter attacks. But these flying machines will not be of help unless they have powerful infrared equipped cameras to photographs the targets through thick foliages and mist covers.

Dantewara massacre has now emboldened the Maoists. They are feeling that they can take on the state forces and defeat them. They have warned of more attacks and in a letter, which they have now circulated they have urged the family members of the security personnel participating in anti-Maoists operations to call them back home. They are brazenly trying to subvert the loyalty of the paramilitary forces.

For the security forces and their political masters this the time to steady the nerves and not to press the panic buttons. State police and paramilitary forces of the central government acting in tandem can successfully thwart the Maoists without involving the army. It was the police and the paramilitary forces, which thwarted the terrorists in Punjab. In Andhra Pradesh the police and its specialized units like the Greyhound have been able to effectively tackle the Maoists. In Andhra, Maoists incidents fell from 576 in 2006 to 62 in 2009. Killings by the Maoists from 211 to 17 and police deaths from 25 to zero. The key to success is purposive police action backed by intelligence. Tripura police has also done a commendable job in tackling the insurgents. Lessons for other states affected by the Maoists are clear police forces have to be trained, modernized and functioning of the intelligence apparatus improved so that they can penetrate the Maoist groups. Time has also come to work out swift intelligence based operations targeting the Maoists in their hideouts. This will dent their capability and morale and put them in disarray. This will also erode their support among the local population.

There is also need for proper coordination between the centre and the states to carry out well directed and well planned offensive against the Maoists. Operation Greenhunt has not been so far very successful because some of the states are dragging their feet due to political and electoral considerations. However, reports from the field indicate, despite some constraints the operation Greenhunt in West Bengal and Jharkhand border has been able to create confidence in the minds of the locals in Purulia (West Bengal) and Ghatsheela (Jharkhand) areas. Local villagers are coming forward to inform on the Maoists.

Training of the police and paramilitary forces has to be significantly improved and upgraded. Police training institutions in most of the affected states are in a poor shape. Further, each state has armed police battalions but they are ill trained and ill equipped. Eastern Frontiers Rifles was once an elite force but now, as attacks on Silda camp has shown, it is ill trained and poorly led. The same is true of most of the armed police battalions in others states affected by Maoist menace. CRPF has also to train its men in jungle warfare thoroughly. Hurried training course for 20 or 30 days in army training schools is not adequate. There should be a certain percentage of men earmarked for training. At present this is not happening because constant deployment of CRPF on various duties. If this trend persists, CRP will also go the way of other state armed police battalions.

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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