Countering the Naxalites: Deploying the Armed Forces
Hopefully, the loss of 76 CRPF personnel of its 62nd battalion in a tactically brilliant and clinically executed ambush laid by the Naxalites in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh will mark a point of inflexion in the on-going Green Hunt operations against these left wing extremists. There are a whole lot of questions that have arisen regarding how they were ambushed, whether the laid down SOP [Standard Operating Procedure] was followed and so on. These issues would, no doubt, engage the attention of EN Rammohan, former DG Border Security Force, who has been appointed by the Government of India to probe into this incident. More detailed information on how this incident unfolded, what was the intelligence input available, and how they fell into the trap laid for them would, no doubt, also be noticed in the Report. But, there are several basic issues that may not fall within Rammohan’s terms of inquiry that are cardinal for dealing with the Naxalite menace in a holistic manner, and, it is a matter of no satisfaction for this writer to have predicted this outcome before Green Hunt started, by inquiring, “…are the security forces earmarked for these operations trained adequately? Are they physically fit enough for jungle operations? Are they conversant with the terrain, language and customs of the local population? Otherwise, huge casualties without commensurate gains can be expected. It will be very demoralizing for the security forces.” The official version of this incident was given by the Home Minister in his statement to Parliament on April 15. Apparently, the CRPF company that was ambushed was undertaking an “area domination exercise,” that was to last three days between April 4th and 6th, and include two night halts. “… [T]hey came under fire at 0550 hours on the morning of the 6th…It was unfortunately a place where they did not have the advantage of either height or cover. Most of them died as a result of bullet injuries. Some died because of crude bombs and grenades…There were no landmines, there were no pressure bombs.” Parliament was also informed that the 62nd CRPF battalion was deployed earlier in Bihar and was familiar with anti-Naxal operations. But, there is no mention of whether they
were familiar with the particular “terrain, language and customs of the local population” in which they were annihilated. What was this exercise designed to achieve, since the CRPF company left the area sought to be
dominated. Further details of this ambush are coming out in driblets. However, the Naxalites have released their version of the incident, which informs that they kept the CRPF personnel under close watch and ambushed them in an area with no cover, and sequentially attacked them from three sides leaving no room for escape. In fact, all their arms and ammunition were looted and taken away. The Dantewada ambush has been followed up by several Maoist attacks on CRPF camps, underlining the irony that the Green Hunters have, in truth, becoming the Hunted.