“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu in ‘The Art of War’
The problems of Naxal affected areas are well known and the government and security forces are criticized for their inaction. But, how do we correct these inadequacies? Can the government continue such a large scale operation for long without any policy correction? Is CPMF deployment the only solution and are they adequately equipped to solve the problem? With the above lines from the legendary Chinese author, it’s time to evaluate our preparedness to counter the Naxal menace.
The inadequacy of the CRPF that surfaced from the shocking Dantewada incident can be summarized as a lack of leadership, training, motivation and poor command and control. According to EN Rammohan, retired DG, BSF, who headed the enquiry committee on the incident, “CRPF is essentially a law and order force rather than for counter-insurgency operations. Even during their mandatory counter-insurgency training, their basic mindset is not appropriate. Moreover, leadership in CRPF is not praiseworthy. Unless troops and officers are trained and are in the thick of action together, the leadership will continue to suffer. As was evident in the Dantewada incident, the lack of able leadership led to flouting of the SOP causing death of 76 troops.” He added that the Naxals are targeting the CPMFs to seize their superior weapons. He suggests replacing CRPF deployment in Naxal areas by ITBP or BSF because of their capability in handling counter-insurgency operations.
However, there are questions about the efficacy of ITBP or BSF as the ideal force to be deployed in Naxal areas. Both, BSF and ITBP are apt essentially for securing the country’s borders. The problems faced in the red corridor are more socio-economic in genesis than terrorist-related. Notwithstanding this argument, keeping all your eggs in one basket is not a wise option. The security forces know the terrorists and their motivations, their highest concentrations and attack patterns, then why are they not able to prevent guerrilla attacks by the Naxals? Too much reliance on the CRPF in these areas has not shown any substantial progress so far. Perhaps it is time for the government to contemplate raising an exclusive dedicated force like the Greyhounds in Andhra Pradesh.
There are reports that the government is seeking redeployment of forces as per operational plan offered by the states. There is also a talk of bringing in specialized forces for jungle warfare from the North East. Strong rumours about government employing psychologists to ensure sound mental health of the troops are also doing the rounds.
According to Kashmir Singh, Joint Secretary (Naxal Management), MHA, the CPMF are being targeted because that is the only source of weapons for Naxals. With regards to intelligence sharing, he dismissed the allegations on lack of coordination. “There is a State Multi-Agency Centre (SMAC) at state level which has inter-state intelligence sharing meetings daily and a central level Multi Agency Centre (MAC) which meets adequately,” he said.
In the 14 July Chief Minister’s Meeting with Prime Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister, some solutions emerged. The Centre asked the worst affected –Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal to set up a Unified Command in the state capitals with Chief Secretaries as their heads. The other members will be the state DGP, the Development Commissioners, state Inspectors General (anti-Naxal operations) and CRPF, an Intelligence Bureau (IB) official and the state intelligence official along with a retired Major General rank army officer.
The Unified Commands will have powers and responsibilities over anti-Naxal operations by CPMF and the state police and will also chalk out the action plan for development initiatives once these forces dominate an area. The Unified Command will also have the powers to use and direct the helicopters allocated to each state for rescue operations and troop reinforcements. BSF air wing, which is operating the helicopters in these zones, will be supplemented with more Advance Light Helicopters and those from the Indian Air Force. The meeting also approved raising 34 new battalions of India Reserve Battalion (IRB) for these areas.
About 16,000 additional SPOs are sanctioned, taking the total number to about 30000. Strengthening of 400 police stations in the affected districts at US$20 million a police station over two years is also taken up along with the decision to improve road connectivity in 34 worst affected districts at a cost of US$9.5 by the Road Transport and Highways Ministry.
As Gen McArthur had said, “Provoke reaction to control action,” may be it’s time for the government to stop waiting for Naxals to strike again and take an initiative in taking them by surprise instead. While these proposed measures seem appealing, how much they translate into action, remains to be seen. For now, the outcome of the war on Naxalism seems distant, but hope lives on.
Part II of a two-part analysis on problems faced by the CPMF in Naxal affected areas